Na Leanai – Branching Out
This is the second and first fully developed album from this Co. Down Folk group. It demonstrates significant development by them since their self-titled work of two years ago.
Na Leanai is made up of five cousins; Eimear Kane, Sorcha Turnbull, and sisters Ryanne Sands, Fra Sands and Moya Sands.
The Sands surname is a clue to the origins of the band, all being daughters, sons and nephews of the Sands Family group.
Na Leanai formed about four years ago, initially playing at their local Fiddlers Green Festival. Since they have been gigging on a fairly regular basis, both locally and with tours to places such as Demark, Scotland, and Germany.
For this album, the band has called upon the production skills of Steve Cooney. Cooney, who originally hails from Australia, is well-known and regarded in folk and traditional circles as an outstanding guitar player. He does an excellent job here and his input and attention to detail raises this collection to another level beyond the band’s initial work.
The material is an interesting and diverse collection drawn from eclectic sources; Mike Scott of The Waterboys fame, Barry Kerr the traditional player and songwriter from Lurgan, folk songs from France and Germany, one from the English folk singer Alan Taylor, a couple of traditional songs, a couple of originals from Eimear and perhaps not surprisingly one from Uncle Tommy.
The opening track of the album ‘Bring ‘Em All In’, is very strong and striking. It features glorious multi-layered harmonies by the band with the striking addition of two Zulu singers. With shades of Graceland, it’s worth buying the CD for this track alone.
Playing and production are sharp throughout and it’s clear that a lot of time and effort has gone into this by Steve and the assistant producers.
For me, the most striking feature of this album and indeed the bands overall work is the vocal harmonies. Check out ‘Vla La Bon Vent’ and ‘Phegin Agus Pheader’ as examples.
There is something about family vocals that can be a joy to listen to. Think the Watersons and the McGarrigles for example.
The singing and playing by all members of the band is more mature and confident than on their first record.
Fra sings three songs on this work and he is emerging as a fine singer and guitar player while Eimear’s songs are becoming a significant part of the band’s repertoire.
Overall, it’s a very fine piece of work, well worth seeking out. They must be due a Belfast gig soon?