- 09 Mar 20
Striking debut album from Ballina trad-rockers.
Mayo band Billow Wood comprise Mark O’Donnell (fiddle, guitar), Harry Lawlor (harp, guitar), Ciara O’Donnell (bodhrán, flute, whistles), Bríd O’Donnell (accordion) with walk-on parts for bass and drums. They blend their instrumental melange of folk, trad and rock with vocals that will shake and stir. Formerly known as Flat Out, their vibrant sound was sampled heretofore on singles and an EP, but here revealed in all its comforting glory, neatly knitted together by mixer and masterer Martin Quinn.
A short ethereal intro sets the scene for ‘Running From Wolf’’ to chastise us for our frenzied misuse of time before it bathes in a vocal musicality that recalls The Corrs. Songs like ‘Pushin’ and Shovin’, ‘Mother’s Tale’ drip with drama and a similar Corrs-like richness. ‘Old Friend’ is a welcome addition to the canon of gently melodic folk love-songs, while global self-help fads have been built on less wisdom than that contained in the lyrics of ‘Carpe Diem’, boosted by those full-blooded voices and a beguiling rhythmic feel.
The instrumental ‘The Black River’ is lead off with Mark O’Donnell’s nimble fiddle, and shifts up the gears to show they know a bit about lettin’ it rip around the kitchen. Later, the slightly more sedate and Clannad-like ‘The Ox and The Birch’ pops along to show it was no fluke. ‘Should I Stay’ is a more reflective, soulful item, with Ciara O’Donnell’s faultless voice to the fore and it leads to some more delicious fiddling with an Eastern flavour. ‘Bird Boy’ ends Walls of Caves on a throbbing playful high that says “we’ll be back”.
If the whole exercise of Walls of Caves is not as unique as they’d have you believe, this is indeed an impressive debut, brimful of confidence in all departments and a pocketful of upful songs that’ll take Billow Wood around the world a fair few times.