Irish balladeers The Kilkennys are due to release their new album The Colour of Freedom on the 25th of May. An energetic and capable, The Kilkennys are stalwarts of the traditional Irish music scene, and have toured extensively around Ireland and the continent, earning them a loyal and growing fan base. Their debut album Meet the Kilkennys was released in 2008 when it sold over 10,000 copies. Comprising of Davey Cashin (vocals, mandolin, banjo and whistles), Robbie Campion (acoustic guitar, banjo), Tommy Mackey (bass, backing vocals), and Davey Long (drums, bodhrán), the Kilkennys are stylistically and vocally in the same vein as the High Kings – who specialise in highly polished traditional Irish music.
The Colour of Freedom contains a mixture of traditional Irish songs (arranged by the Kilkennys), and original work. The defining features of their style are enthusiasm and finesse. These, coupled with strong, sonorous vocals and close, pristine harmonies make the Kilkennys worth a listen. They also look a tidy bunch, with sensible haircuts and smartly dressed as country gentlemen, they’re a world away from their tight-trousered contemporaries in the charts.
The traditional songs on this album include ‘South Australia’, ‘Rocky Road to Dublin’, ‘Spanish Lady’, ‘Wild Colonial Boy’ and ‘Bold O’ Donahue’. ‘The Badger Sett’ – traditional instrumental piece is one of the standout tracks on the album. It showcases the true extend of the skill and passion of the musicians. It’s a definite toe-tapper, with the banjo initially taking the lead soon to be joined by the accordion (a guest appearance by Derek Morrissey) and flute. The tune builds beautifully to a rousing dancing tune. It’s exactly the sort of song that would fill the dancefloor in a pub session. The other instrumental is ‘Cry of the Burren’ which is a new-agey, cinematic tune. It’s a bit out of keeping with the tenor of the album, but that does not take away from its quality.
‘South Australia’ is the opening track on the record which surprises in its unusual tempo. This has the effect of breathing new life into a somewhat overplayed song. ‘Rocky Road to Dublin’ begins with a solo, unaccompanied voice, but soon kicks up into a Thin Lizzy-esque rendition with a rollicking, sing-a-long chorus. ‘Fáinleog’ (that’s ‘swallow’ as gaelige, for you non-Irish speaking folk) and ‘Fiddlers Green’ are both soft, slowly swaying ballads, which may bring a tear to an ex-pats eye.
At times, it has to be said, the Kilkennys sound like something on a Fáilte Ireland tourist advert. Indeed, there is a lengthy section on their website dedicated to tourist attractions in Kilkenny. As evidenced by their music, pride of place and origin is very important to the foursome. It’s a wonder then, why they sometimes seem to sing with American accents – not often, but noticeable when it occurs. There’s no doubt that the Kilkennys are gifted musicians, however, a little bit of grit and substance wouldn’t go amiss – particularly in their song choices. They certainly have the skill and talent to be more adventurous, it’s a chance I think they should take.
If you would like to hear a unique, modern take on old classics, as well as some new tunes, The Kilkennys should be right up your alley. With effortless and confident aplomb, they tackle old favourites and original tunes in a fashion reminiscent of the Clancy Brothers or The Chieftains.