Sometimes the Irish trad cosmos lines up for something special and a new group or a solo artist appears. It is instant and hits like a musical storm. Connla.
Northern Ireland to its musical core, this quintet is scoring instant international raves due to a self-titled ep they introduced a year ago. Now comes their first full album, River Waiting. The five are Emer Mallon on harp and Conor Mallon on uilleann pipes, (brother and sister). Paul Starrett plays guitar, Ciaran Carlin is the flute player for the group, with Ciara McCafferty on vocals and bodhran. Besides being thoroughly talented musicians, each shares the fact that they have a full blend of formal and traditional training in Irish music. All are teachers, with deep educational backgrounds in music. This leads to something critical. Connla knows its way around the tunes and songs (eight of the numbers on River Waiting are originals) technically and emotionally. Most Irish trad musicians cannot read music. It is passed on in the traditional way of hearing and repeating. Connla’s formal education and years in Northern Ireland sessions add a whole new dimension.
The group is a full mix of musical knowledge, training and performance experience unheard of in a group this young. All are close friends and/or family who go way back together in the Northern musical scene. Each has won several performance awards. The resulting music is satisfyingly complex, yet directly and easily accessible. This is that rare group that is musically attractive to the experienced trad purist, as well as the music fan who knows nothing of the music. There is the mix in all of their music of great lift to the music and deep insights in the songs, all coupled with top musicianship and taste. Truth be told, it may never have been pulled off before by a group this young. Certainly not in a first album. Yesterday and tomorrow’s trad today. Here comes Connla!