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Dervish have been on the road for ten years now, and theirs is a joyful synthesis that has long since been amply demonstrated on live recordings like Live In Palma
Mark O'Sullivan, 13 Sep 2001
When Dervish take the stage at the Everyman Palace, they do so to a rapturous welcome. They may not be quite as well-known as De Danaan or Altan, two bands they must surely be on a par with by now, but I suspect this may have more to do with their mischievous choice of a name that is Muslim in origin over one in their native tongue than with their musical ability. After all, the band has been on the road for ten years now, and theirs is a joyful synthesis that has long since been amply demonstrated on live recordings like Live In Palma.
The undoubted star of Dervish’s act is Cathy Jordan. In the midst of some of the most formidable musical talents the Northwest has produced, she demonstrates why the human voice remains the most bewitching of instruments. Whatever the material, and Dervish’s set includes everything from the traditional ‘There Was A Maid In Her Father’s Garden’ to Dylan’s ‘Spanish Boots of Spanish Leather’, Jordan makes it her own.
The introductions to the songs are frequently hilarious. The Dylan tune was one the band worked on for Zimmerman’s 60th birthday, an event at which the guest of honour failed to show, which must surely have been his loss. ‘The Ploughman’ concerns the fate of a young girl, despatched to sell a pig at the market by her mother, who is parted from both the proceedings of the sale and her innocence by the ploughman she sojourns with in a cock of hay her way home; Jordan wonders aloud at the extent to which rural courtships have been adversely affected by the advent of the round bale.
The choice of instrumentals the band perform demonstrates not just the diversity of styles they have mastered, but also just how rich a seam there is to mine. Musical luminaries like James Morrison and Michael Coleman are name-checked, tunes like ‘Up With Leitrim’ and ‘I Buried My Wife And I Danced On Top Of Her’ are dusted down and given new life, and there is a refreshing insistence on keeping the game firmly in the traditional field of play.
The high-light of the set has to be ‘Red Haired Mary’, a tune the group imbue with all the splendour and frenzy one might reasonably expect from an outfit named for a spirit enraptured by music.