Connla – The Next Chapter

Album Review | Self Release | Review by Marc Higgins | Stars: 4/5

Connla are a five piece band from Armagh and, Derry in Northern Ireland. Connla is a character from Irish mythology upon whom are placed a series of geasa or obligations, he cannot turn back once he starts his journey and he must not refuse a challenge. Both of these are admirable qualities in a band. Right from the start Connla confound with the squalls of Paul Starrett’s electric guitar that open Organised Chaos a gently pastoral track with traditional instruments and voice building a bubbling trance like pulse. From abstract instrument on the first track Ciara McCafferty wonderfully soft soulful voice is the star on Connla’s stunning take on “Wayfaring Stranger” and Rhiannon Gidden’s “Julie”. Connla take Gidden’s doomy introspective bluegrass and infuse it with light and mysticism, excelling the original. The band excels also on the instrumentals, Mighty Makena’s smoulders with a bluesy intensity and “Crunchie Hill” just burns with atmosphere, dazzling precision and passion. Connla are great interpreters of song with strong versions of songs by Rhiannon Giddens, Sean Tyrrell and Dick Gaughan. In each case the band gets inside the song and makes it feel like an original. The most surprising is probably the delicate Celtic swirl they make of Mountain’s 1971 Pappalardi classic “One Last Cold Kiss”. Can I recommend “Nantucket Sleighride” next, proves that folk music underpins everything. The musicianship through the album is just exemplary, guitars, pipes, whistles and harp are stunning throughout. Standout has to be “The SS Baychimo” and “Matinee at Charlies” set for their beauty and the players interplay. The third geasa placed on mythical Connla was that he must never tell anyone his name. Not such a great quality for an excellent band building a reputation. So after hearing this excellent album we need to celebrate, share and sing the praises of Connla loud if they are mystical bound not too. A strong album from an interesting band.