Duchas, pronounced “du-kuss,” is an Irish Gaelic word meaning “heritage.” And this is what this high energy group from Connemara is playing: their musical heritage. This is their second release, and it is filled with traditional and original pieces, all played with a wonderful energy and passion.
Duchas consists of Michael Casey (vocals, guitar, bouzouki, banjo, bass, bodhran), and Danny Brouder (button accordion). Guests and friends appearing on this disc are Francie O’Connor (fiddle, flute), Michael Collins (banjo), and Eithne Hannigan (fiddle).
Duchas was influenced by a few well known and appreciated groups, the foremost of which is the Pogues, with Shane McGowan in particular. De Danann, The Dubliners, and others also gave influence. Duchas has toured extensively; among the places they have been are USA, Germany, France, Austria, Italy, Norway, Sweden, Finland, Czech Republic, England, Scotland, Thailand, China, and Holland. And according to the liner notes, Michael Casey spent three months living in Bangkok, playing music in an Irish pub there.
There are 18 energized tracks on this disc, amounting to over an hour’s worth of good listening. Even in the slow airs, there is an underlying current of energy, like something waiting to burst free. And there is a slight similarity to the Pogues, both in the music and vocals. Michael Casey is a decent vocalist, but his voice is rather rough, like Shane McGowan’s.
Actually, the fourth track on the CD was written by Michael about Shane, and dedicated to him. It’s entitled “Shane,” and is a slow and rather sentimental tune, and describes him quite well. “So here’s a song, to you me boy/May angels guide your way/The seeds you sow, will grow to oaks/and spread them far and wide/So take a glass and another pint, and put your hand in mine/I’ll listen to your story and you’ll sing another song….”
The “Hey Jude, St. Jude’s Reel, An Gliomach, Jimmy Kelly’s Reel” medley really gets the blood pumping and the toes a-tapping. And yes, the initial part of this track is John Lennon and Paul McCartney’s famous tune. Although I have never heard it played in quite this manner, it was enjoyable, especially when combined with the remaining reels.
The title track of the CD is not found until near the end, being the 12th track. “Solstice” was written by Michael Casey, and according to the cover notes, “is a celebration of summer, music, the craic and life.” And it is indeed a celebration of all of these things, as Michael’s raspy but strong vocals convey the enthusiasm we all feel when the days grow longer and warmer.
I found this CD to be really enjoyable, and very “homey” feeling; it makes it feel like the sun is shining, no matter what the mood or weather. It’s like sliding on an old pair of jeans, familiar and comfortable. More on Duchas can be found here.
(Hog Productions, 2000)