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Life after Eurovision
With their Eurovision adventure as a focal point, it may have been a strange and unusual year for Dervish – but they've bounced back with a superb new album.
Adrienne Murphy, 17 Dec 2007
Ireland’s internationally-renowned trad band, Dervish, had two big things lined up for 2007. The first was representing Ireland in the Eurovision last May with ‘They Can’t Stop The Spring’, written by journalist John Waters. With the full might of RTE behind them, the project was launched amid much hope and excitement. They would be seen in over two hundred million homes around Europe. Win, lose or draw, it might be the makings of them...The result was disastrous: they romped home in last place of the 24 contestants. It was Ireland’s worst ever Eurovision final performance, leaving a sour taste for all concerned. One might have thought that after that the band would be involved in a damage limitation exercise for some time to come. Au contraire, however, Dervish’s other project – their brand new album entitled Travelling Show – turned out to be a real cracker.
It’s just too doggone awkward to start my interview with Cathy Jordan, Dervish’s vocalist and frontwoman, by mentioning the Eurovision debacle. We kick off instead with the band’s gorgeous new album, which is a must-buy for trad-lovers of every age and ilk.
Dervish’s hallmark is to make old tunes sound new and new songs sound old – and Travelling Show brings this talent to the bridge. It really is an extraordinary record. Jordan’s take, for example, on ‘Gypsies Tramps And Thieves’ makes Cher’s big hit from the 1970s seem like it was written two hundred years ago. Meanwhile, tracks like ‘The Coolea Jig’ and ‘The Master’s Return’ infuse the energy and verve so present in contemporary Irish trad into tunes whose origins are ancient. And aside from the thrilling music, Travelling Show, with its beautiful artwork and design, and fascinating sleeve notes, is a joy to the eye and the mind as well as to the ear.
It’s a pleasure listening to Jordan describe what first captivates her about a song and makes her want Dervish to transmute it.
“I think it’s the words. Old-worldy words. Like ‘The Queen And The Soldier’ sounds like it was written in the 19th century, but in fact it was only written 20 years ago, by Suzanne Vega. But it has that old-fashionedness about it. Modern language like ‘baby’ isn’t there.