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Dalla - "A Richer Vein"

Supplied and distributed by Dalla
Reviewer: Geoff Husband
Reviewed: 23rd Nov 2001



A few years back I wrote a rather scathing review of the Corrs latest release. It wasn't that it wasn't thoroughly slick commercial soft rock, rather that it perported to be 'Celtic' - Quote "...it is a missed opportunity, these people are obviously talented but have sold out to the American dollar when they could have brought modern Celtic music to a much wider audience. It's a shame and will leave many people that are curious about the Celtic music revival, wondering what it is all about..."

I suppose I was having a bad day, but the fact was that the many of the general public believe that Celtic music is either Irish 'beauties' pouting to Carpenters rip-offs or the great etherial 'choir-invisible' of the likes of Clannad and Enya.

In actual fact much of the Celtic music revival is based around traditional dance tunes and because of this it's hard to sit still when listening, even for the slower ballads. They're also generally 'small venue' type pieces which work well in a pub or bar or street, often unamplified. Much of this comes from Ireland and Brittany in France, but that small Celtic 'nation' - Cornwall - has stirrings as well. Here we have one of the best bands from that area - Dalla.

Who're Dalla?

'Dalla' has several meanings in the Cornish Language, 'origin, beginning or to dazzle, blind'. It's a good name:-)

They're a band of experienced Cornish professional musicians (and one Breton), they play live all over Cornwall and beyond and if this CD is an example of what they are capable they deserve to be much more widely heard.

The Disc

This comprises a suite of 13 pieces, some being traditional, some written by band members and some a mix of the two. And I love it... I live in Brittany and the influence is obvious but here we have something original and new as well. First there's practically no percussion or even obvious attempt at a rhythm section, rather the instruments and voices swirl around each other to weave intricate patterns of sound. The classic Celtic 'question and answer' form is well used where one instrument plays a phrase to be matched by another. The clarinet dances around the solid (and often brilliant) guitar work, the bombard, a tiny reed instrument which is the Breton equivalent of a stun grenade, slices through the mix - accordian bounces in the background. The general feel being surprisingly jazzy. Much Celtic revival stuff tends towards the rock side of things, not this disc and it's the better for it. Despite the lack of a drumkit the whole thing is so tight and rythmic, never falling apart or becoming ragged. As this is a fairly low budget affair I'd guess many of the songs were done in only a few takes which speaks volumes for the abilities of the various players.

The vocal pairing of Hillary Coleman and Bec Applebee are a great match, though on the 'semi acapella' track 'Nine Brave Boys and the following 'The Trees they are so High' the producer couldn't resist the temptation of using a 'cathedral' accoustic which not only was inappropriate but rather clumsy in that the echo effect cut off too suddenly - it's a shame because they're lovely songs and would have been all the better for the 'pubby' accoustic of the rest of the CD. But really that's my only complaint. I'll not go through track by track, but if you don't get up and dance to 'Yard of Card' then I think your dancing days are over... All Dalla need are a pair of teenage models with implants to mime the songs on video and their fortunes could be made...

Apart from that the recording has the hallmarks of a well recorded accoustic set. Again the short recording time has the advantage of giving an immediate feel and the lack of signal processing leaves the whole thing open and natural. In fact I'm already using it as a reference recording as it's tonal quality outdoes several 'audiophile' releases I have...

Kate's contribution

As I mentioned before I live in Brittany and my wife spends every wednesday evening at Breton dancing class. You know the sort of thing - intricate stepping and waving little fingers. Kate lent the CD to her teacher and after 3 days it was returned with a list of the appropriate dance for each piece. Now that's the real test... (and she ordered a copy).

© Copyright 2001 Geoff Husband - http://www.tnt-audio.com

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