The first time I heard the band name ‘Grumpy O Sheep’ I immediately had pictures of some bearded, old Irish blokes in my head. I imagined a band which sound would come close to the Dubliners, rough and tough Irish folk music with a pint in the hand and a tear in the eye.
When I heard the album for the first time I was convinced iI heard a Spanish band playing! I even wrote it down: ‘Cool that a Spanish band plays Irish music in this way. Cool that they call themselves Grumpy O Sheep, I love that sense of humor.’
But…, I was wrong again! First of all Grumpy O Sheep aren’t Spanish, they are French, and secondly, they are not a band, they are a duo.
Grumpy O Sheep 2 – CeltCast reviewer 0!
The biography of
Grumpy O Sheep
is short but sweet. They are Lu (violin) and Boss (guitar, flute) from the departement of Belfort ( a province in France near the Swiss/German border), who formed an Irish-Spanish folk duo in 2017. After doing a concert tour through France they started recording their first album East of Talisker, which came out in the spring of 2020. That is about it. Not that I mind. A review should be about the music anyway and trust me, there is a LOT to say about Grumpy O Sheep’s music. So let’s jump right in.
And ‘Jumping right in’ are the right words here. Opening track Say’s Gi features all the things that make Grumpy O Sheep’s sound so special. A perfect blend of Irish style violin taking the lead melody and a fiery Spanish style rhythm guitar, including the oh so familiar hand-slapping of the guitar body, taking care of the rhythm and beat. This is instant:’get in a good mood and start dancing‘ music. Say’s Gi is a compilation of three songs: Sight of Land, Humour of Castelfin and Temple House and they all marry so well together. The slight bit of Hall of the Mountain King woven in there as well is just the icing on the cake.
Say’s Gi is just a warm-up. There are way more good vibes to come! The flute and violin intro of Strawberries and Raddish instantly pushes the happy feel barometer up at least ten notches. Not to mention the way the rhythm guitar eventually crashes in for an instant party. So cool. This music just oozes out the cheer of Irish folk and the energy of Spanish acoustic music. And don’t forget the quirkiness of the French. That sudden wah-wah pedal on the Spanish guitar. I love that bit. I truly love it!
Strawberries and Raddish is actually a compilation of the tunes Monaghan Jig and Drowsy maggie melted together. In their pure Irish form those tunes are already bursting with energy, add the Spanish rhythm to it and they become fountains of joie de vivre. That typical French joy of life.
With the third song Hunaman, the positive vibes go up one more time. Hunaman is a cover of the famous Mexican guitar duo
Rodrigo y Gabriela,
and trust me, you have to be brave to take on such a song, and really skilled to pull it off. Well, Lu and Boss are both. As with most of Grumpy O Sheep songs, Lu takes the lead melody, – in the original song played by Rodrigo-, giving it a lovely, different, but equally catchy feel. And Boss is more than capable to take on Gabriela’s rhythm part. I love this version of the song; the use of the violin makes it just that wee bit more melodic; it sings just that wee bit more. Thumbs up guys.
East of Talisker is not only filled with fast-paced, energetic dance tunes though. Inisheer is the first calmer, balladesque song to balance it all out. The gentle fingerpicking guitar melody temporarily calms down the mood. Time for our first glass of wine in enjoyment of this wonderful music. The violin gives this song a real French feel. You can feel there is a real story hidden in these violin notes, memories of faraway places, of almost forgotten dreams. And Lu is bringing them all back again. A lovely song, reminiscent of the Dutch duo
Wouter en de Draak.
With Sheeps Are Sailing we go deep into the Irish musical heritage. So cool to hear how you can make a violin sound French in one song, and then so clearly Irish in the next. It is as if it is speaking in a different dialect all of a sudden. The middle part of this song, with all its fun effects, makes me realize how well this CD is recorded. It is Fresh and modern, just like the music itself. Although you hear ‘only’ a violin and guitar, it is recorded in a way, which makes the music fill up the whole room. The sound engineer makes maximum use of the stereo spectrum and the microphones are placed so well that you can hear every single sound. Up to Boss’s fingers whizzing over the neck of his guitar, swiftly going from one note to the next. In my eyes the standard to reach when it comes to recording folk music is that of
Fieke van der Hurk
Well, the team recording East of Talisker nailed it. The album sounds equally good!
Gravel Walk, the song above, is proof of that. A tune so catchy it stays in your head for days, if you’re not careful, and the sound. That sound! Just listen to that guitar filling up your earphones. Making a lovely bed for that catchy-as-hell violin melody. And then that finger tipping against the violin body to keep up the beat!!! I just love this!! I just love the whole CD!!! I just love the energy oozing out of it even before I open the CD case!!!
If you want to bring home the fun of Irish music, the energy of Spanish guitar and the ‘Joie the Vivre’ of the French, done with the vibrancy, only two young really talented musicians can bring, free of spirit and not bothered by rules, then East of Talisker is the album to get.
Grumpy O sheep is a duo of artists, of entertainers, theatre people, and street musicians bundled in one package, and I loved every note of it. Vive Grumpy O’ Sheep!
picture: Grumpy O Sheep
PS. I couldn’t help it. I had to add just one more video, because it is so quirky, because it is so well played, and because it says so much about the attitude this duo has to their music and life in general.
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