JOE O’DONNELL’S SHKAYLA – Into The Becoming

Silvery 2013

JOE O'DONNELL'S SHKAYLA - Into The Becoming

JOE O’DONNELL’S SHKAYLA –
Into The Becoming

Veteran violinist zooms in his rootsy, yet prophetic, vision on the timeless beauty.

Never since the halcyon days of HORSLIPS have Irish musicians brew such a heady mix of genres that amounts to an alchemical marriage of rock and folk. Focusing on the titular term for the future coined by Hopi Indians, O’Donnel’s palette spans the whole of the world as befits an artist who’s left imprint on such milestone records as EAST OF EDEN’s “Another Eden” and JADE WARRIOR’s "Kites". A member of the former and a guest on the latter, it was only in 1998 that Joe came up with SHKAYLA, a band of his own to tie the various styles strains ever so tight on “Into The Becoming” which easily shifts from rustic jigs to sharp riffage and proggy wigouts in the most unpredictable fashion and is all the better for it. One is rarely offered an adventure like this.

It begins with what could be termed, as the rippling tapestry “Freagra” – meaning “Answer” – slowly reveals the album’s main themes before the groove gains pace,the deceptively serene picture gets ripped and the ensemble let rip. It may get glacially epic in “Variation On Valencia Lament” where the main man’s fiddle and Martin Barter’s ivories turn classically sparse and dramatic, but “Breton Set” moves from stately, organ-oiled halls into a village square where the barrelhouse plays host to a jazz piano which reeks of both beer and modern tropes, as do, given a synthesizer sway, glossy song “Smearach” or the electric swirl of “Cooley’s Reel” paired with “Tap The Barrel.” From there Si Hayden’s guitar shoots to sweep away the courtly elegance of the mandolin-embroidered “Swaggering Set” and delicately underpin the vocal harmonies in “Je’ntende Le Loup Suite” rolling back the ages to the Renaissance fair.

As far as vibrancy goes, the Terry Woods-penned “Noisy Johnny” bounces from Adrian Litvinoff’s bass and Brendan J. Rayner’s drums and lands, cleverly amplified, in the tremulous era of swing, whereas “Severeno” takes its Gypsy caravan on the klezmer territory, tugging on heartstrings and plucking strings in a rather disturbing way. Still, the sadness washes off with the unhurried lightness of “Ton Bale Purled” segueing into “Gavotte” to welcome the rocking ballad “Skewball” which begs for a full orchestral wrap. Yet “O’Neils Lament” brings the tearful emotions home, into the emerald becoming of the album a genuine, arresting, riveting ensemble masterpiece.

*****

January 19, 2014

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