- 29 Jan 20
"Trad with added exotic flavors."
The Irish music scene has been much enriched down the decades by valuable interactions with incomers of the calibre of Steve Cooney, The Waterboys and Rodrigo y Gabriela. Varo – Lucie Azconaga from France and Consuelo Nerea Breschi from Italy, a fiddle and vocal duo who do magic things to traditional tunes – can be added to that list. Their baroque classical and medieval folk influences – as well as their thoughtful use of drones and countermelody – can take songs to new places. Check the single ‘Sovay’, a song from the repertoire of the legendary Anne Briggs.
‘Ye Yacobites By Name’, with revised lyrics by Dylan’s Scottish hero Robbie Burns, sets their spine-tingling harmonies against a subtle drone and gentle percussion. Those rich voices expand even further on ‘Ben Hall’s Wake’, giving it a haunting, church-like feel. The fiddles do their harmonic thing on the instrumental ‘Considine’s Waltz’, drawing the melodies off the frets rather than digging them out. There’s an English folk slant to ‘The Doffing Mistress’, a song with links to the linen-mills of Northern Ireland. Elsewhere, they rescue ‘As I Roved Out’ from the belting balladeers to emphasise the subtlety in both tune and tale. They play it straight on the jaunty ‘The Rakes of Clonmel/ I Ne’er Shall Wean Her’.
Mostly, Varo keep it short and to the point, and their song choices are focused largely on the female perspective. Along the way, they’re ably abetted by Frank Tate’s mandolin and bouzouki; Niamh Bury’s voice and guitar; and Helen Diamond’s vocals and fiddle. Is it too early to talk about albums of the year?