Michael Walsh – Quarehawk

Album Review | Self Release | Review by Allan Wilkinson | Stars: 5/5

Any ambiguity we might have surrounding the definition of the word ‘quarehawk’ is almost immediately resolved as this Manchester-born, now Sheffield-based musician sets out his manifesto midway through the title track, a set of three tunes with a spoken interlude in the middle. It’s bold, it’s liberating, and it’s joyous in its delivery, “I am the one whose head dances to a different beat”, he tells the listener before he goes any further. “I am the boy who could be a girl, I am that little boy who plays with dolls”, he continues, with unwavering boldness. He’s also “the fluter who wants to play slow” and it’s while playing his wooden flute and indeed his tin whistle, that we begin to completely understand the uniqueness of this ‘English cousin’, as he sets out to show us his Irish roots. The tunes are rich in atmosphere, brilliantly performed and sincerely delivered. “The Visitor” is a beautiful meditation on loss and reflection, spoken in a tender, yet completely honest voice, as poet Mike Garry’s gentle and dignified words dance upon the sound of a traditional air, “An Buachaillín Donn” or “The Brown Haired Boy.” By way of contrast, the Armagh-born singer Ríoghnach Connolly joins Michael on the stunning “Shores of Lough Bran”, together with some delicious harmony vocals courtesy of Bryony Griffith, reminding us once again that the Irish quite possibly have the all best tunes around. Other influences are explored such as the Asturian music of Western Spain, notably the lively “Barralin/Pasucáis de uviéu”, as well as being reunited with old friend, the Basque master of the Trikitixa, Kepa Junkera on the title piece together with the bonus ‘party mix’ of the same tunes. Bookended by a couple of tunes “Marian’s Favourite” and “Crowley’s Reel”, recorded live to a vinyl lathe, adds a touch of authenticity to the music on the album, reminding us of the past and as Michael tells us in the sleeve notes, “Don’t touch those knobs! It’s all about the crackle.” Standing in an alleyway, illuminated by the beam of a streetlight, lipping his flute and gazing up at the stars, we are provided with a twilight image that pretty much sums up the charm of this highly individual musician and the music on this album is a reflection of that in spades.