Ultimately though, Tyrrell’s voice, like his music, defies all easy classification bar the only one that matters – like the Glaswegian and the Dubliner, this man’s got soul
Like fiddle magician Martin Hayes, his soulmate from across the county in east Clare, the Burren-based Galwegian Sean Tyrrell offers folk music that belongs firmly in the here and now, his respect for roots cohabiting thrillingly with a willingness to stretch, invent and experiment.
Pulling it all together is Tyrrell’s acclaimed voice, a thing of wonder that occupies its own distinctive space somewhere between the seductive sweetness of John Martyn and the authoritative rasp of Luke Kelly. Ultimately though, Tyrrell’s voice, like his music, defies all easy classification bar the only one that matters – like the Glaswegian and the Dubliner, this man’s got soul.
Belladonna stimulates the mind and animates the heart with poetic songs of love and loss and war and peace. Meanwhile, the feet are kept busy on a couple of nimble instrumental workouts – the lovely ‘Paddy Fahy’s Reel’ among them – featuring Tyrrell’s own incredible string one-man band (including tenor guitar, tenor banjo, mandocello and mando bass), the acoustic guitar of Johnny Mulhern and Robbie Walshe on bodhran.
Elsewhere, the instrumental line-up shape-changes to serve the song. There’s campfire harmonica from Brendan Mulligan adding a lonely feel to Judi McKeown’s ‘Sweet Ballyvaughan’ (a geographical heartbreaker to file alongside Andy Irvine’s ‘West Coast Of Clare’); perfectly-judged shards of electric guitar intensifying the corrosive pain of the emigrant’s lament ‘Hotel Du Cain’; and great ensemble playing and fantastic phrasing in ‘Belladonna In The Bar’, a typically audacious interpretation of a Michael Hartnett poem about the dark heart of alcoholism.
All told, there’s just short of a whopping 70 minutes’ worth of words and music on Belladonna, and whether Tyrrell is performing his own material, revisiting the “great tinker long song” ‘One Starry Night’ or setting Yeats’ words to music in ‘The Stolen Child’, his touch is nearly always assured and more than occasionally heartstopping.
Jeez, how did Louis miss this guy?!?