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Manic genius. Dervish have been anointed with such a spectrum of talent that they've never wanted for vision when it comes to broadening their repertoire.
Siobhan Long, 18 Aug 1999
Manic genius. Dervish have been anointed with such a spectrum of talent that they've never wanted for vision when it comes to broadening their repertoire. Now a zen-like septet with the recent arrival of Seamus O'Dowd on guitar, fiddle, harmonica and backing vocals, and Tom Morrow on fiddle and viola, Dervish are closing in on their own personal arc of the covenant, that centrifugal force that draws all traditional musicians towards the fulcrum of a sound that melds past with present in a way that's all their own.
Cathy Jordan, Brian McDonagh and their band-mates have always insisted on excellence. Little-known songs are unearthed, dusted off and rejuvenated by Jordan's wondrous voice, tunes are meticulously reworked by the combined forces of Michael Holmes' bouzouki, Liam Kelly's flute and Shane Mitchell's accordion. It's this democracy of expression that hoists Dervish way up above so many other pretenders to the throne of traditional music.
Midsummer's Night captures the spirit and distills Dervish's essence effortlessly.
And then there's the tunes. Inspired couplings abound, tunes ebb and flow as though writ on water. Hard as it is to pick a standout among the plethora of energized concoctions, the 'Palmer's Gate' set of reels is a pulse-stopping union of all seven musicians, with Seamus O'Dowd's harmonica adding a sublime undercurrent that instinctively halts and hurries the pace along.
Another highlight is Michael Holmes' gorgeous 'Cairns Hill', a meditative, leisurely set piece with bouzouki, fiddle, mandola and guitar interweaving almost carnally.
And speaking of things carnal, Midsummer's Night comes replete with a refreshingly sensual gatefold sleeve, which draws from Ogham tracts for its inspiration.
Search for Dervish's achilles tendon and you'll be left idle. It's 1999 and at the millennial's end they've come of age.