Sometimes I come to albums in the next year after they were produced, and regret not putting them on my end-of-year lists (we really need to come up with a better system for this—maybe this year, best of 2022 and 2021 albums I finally heard?). This post features two albums from Fall 2021, both of them folk music. I'd say this was a St. Patrick's Day post, but neither of the albums I'm recommending are really connected to Ireland, though they might broadly be considered Celtic.
The first is Message in a Bottle by Ingrid Henderson, a Scottish harpist. No, it doesn't have anything to do with Sting's "Message in a Bottle"; instead, the album is inspired by an event in 2008, when "a nine year old boy from Armagh placed...a message in a
bottle off Northern Ireland and ten years later it washed up on Canna [Scotland]" (there's your Irish connection). Henderson mixes her music with natural sounds, like the sea, and the rest of the album soothes like those natural sounds. Birds, sailors, and mermaids are featured topics. Besides instrumentals, there's singing in Scots-Gaelic and English, too. My two favorite tracks are dance music, though: "Jigs–Port na Culaidh & Port an Luig Mhòir" and "Reels–The Dance of the Storm Petrels & Swallows of the Sea." Also available on Bandcamp.
The second album is Reclaim by Mishra, a group from Sheffield, England. While their style is "traditional," their use of Indian tabla, banjo, low whistles, bass and clarinet (and sometimes bass clarinet) puts them solidly in the realm of "fusion." But it is not just the instrumentation; the melodies occasionally borrow from Indian music (and other traditional music). The songwriting might vary in quality, but the arrangements are always inventive and unexpected. Also available on Bandcamp.