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The Landing Step

Gráda

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Album Review

You don't hear trumpet, string bass, and percussion (unless it's a bodhran) on Celtic recordings very often, and for some people that's just the way it ought to be. But for those who cherish their Boys of the Lough and Matt Molloy albums but also like to hear the tradition messed with just a bit from time to time, this type of thing is just the ticket. Grada play with obvious respect for the ancient roots of their music, but also without any apparent fear that they might break it through experimentation. So the first thing you hear on "Tread Softly" is a cello; the melody of the original composition "Inis Dornish" sounds more Eastern European than Irish; the vocal numbers are cover versions of modern songs written by the likes of Emily Saliers and Teddy Thompson (son of Richard). In short, this is an album that will be filed in the Celtic section with the trad stuff, even though it spends as much time looking to the future as to the past. Still, there's nothing willful or quirky about the band's sound; singer Anne Marie O'Malley delivers everything with a gentle elegance, and even when the band lapses into jazzy jam band mode it never goes on long before the flute and fiddle are suddenly playing closely arranged harmonies or lilting off into another traditional reel. Most albums of Celtic music yield their charms quickly, but this one grows on you. Highly recommended.

Biography

Genre: World

Years Active: '00s, '10s

It's definitely a compliment when an Irish folk band is said to be to its genre what Arcade Fire are to indie. But that's just part of the praise heaped on Gráda since their formation in 2001. The five-piece, which is made up of musicians not just from Ireland but also New Zealand, has undergone some lineup changes over the years, but remains true to its musical base, thanks to the core of bassist Andrew Laking and guitarist Gerry Paul, both of whom grew up in New Zealand. For the first few years,...
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The Landing Step, Gráda
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