Back Porch Music Album Reviews: Lucinda Williams and The Olllam

from North Carolina Public Radio

Here's another installment of Back Porch Music album reviews. We're posting these periodically here with two or three CD reviews each week and we hope you enjoy them. Leave your comments below. 

Lucinda Williams - self titled

"Classic" as an adjective gets used so often that when something really is a classic album the term nearly loses its meaning. In this case, though, we've got ourselves a bona fide classic: it stands the test of time. Released in 1988 it was Lucinda Williams' third commercial release, her first in 8 years. The self-title release announced her mature arrival.

It's a remarkable album that skillfully mixes country, blues, rock, and folk singer-songwriter elements in a tough, vital, and satisfying way. The release contains her Grammy-awarding winning "Passionate Kisses" that became a hit for Mary Chapin Carpenter. Emmylou Harris and others have released covers of songs from this album over the last 25 years.

There's so much emotional punch in this album that at times it's almost overwhelming. This 25th anniversary release includes a bonus CD of a 1989 concert from Holland that gives you a good sense of her live shows from that era.

In some circles, Lucinda has a rep for being difficult to work with and headstrong.  She's had some tussles with record execs over the years and this time around she's doing it her way fully. The anniversary release came out on Lucinda Williams Records. It was re-released in late January 2014.

Highly recommended.

The Olllam - self titled

The Olllam, a modern Celtic trio, take their name from on old Irish word that basically means "master of a trade." A quirk of this release is that every time you encounter the letter "l" in a song title it's trebled. So, we find tunes such as "The Belll" and "The Devilll For My Hurt." (This of course, throws the spell checker into a tizzy.) Their music, thankfully, is as individualistic as their spelling.*

The Olllam are a trio of bright, energetic trans-Atlantic Celtic players: ulleann pipe and whistle players Tyler Duncan (from Detroit)  and John McSherry (from Belfast), joined by percussionist Michael Shimmin (also from Detroit). Together they create a contemporary sound that swims in a deep past.

The album evolved out of Skype sessions, emails, and texts between these three friends. There are moments where you hear echoes of a Celtic past that spin through a contemporary trance drive that have reminded a few reviewers of Radiohead or Coldplay.


After a short opener the album launches into "The Bellls," a whistle and drum-driven tune with a haunting melody that clocks in at nearly 7 minutes; it sticks and remains long after the tune ends suddenly and starkly.

"The Follly of Wisdom" is also a killer track that propels along with a regular and strong back beat set against a contemporary acoustic guitar strum and parallel electric guitar breaks.

This one's a real keeper.

*(or, is that spellling?)

Festival Fit: Breaking Trad

from the Irish Times

The bar for this year’s festival gigs has been set unexpectedly early. It’d be easy to be dismissive of Temple Bar Tradfest, writing it off as an exercise in cranked-up-oirishness capable of giving Michael Flatley a whole new horn, but this festival has depth and quality, attracting trad diehards as well as weekend warriors.

Cork’s Jazz Festival very successfully manages to provide plenty of distraction for weekenders who hit the city for kicks and a bank holiday session, while still staging top-quality, cutting-edge gigs for the most discerning of jazzers. The obtuse, angular funk that Snarky Puppy brought to their sold-out show in our nations’ other capital last October was balanced perfectly by the more mainstream, crowd-pleasing grooves offered by Nile Rodgers and Chic. Portico Quartet brought their hypnotic and beautiful sounds to Cork, too, entrancing audiences in the Everyman while somewhere else in the city a straw-boatered Dixieland dude put in a call for Doctor Jazz.

Last Friday in Dublin, Paul Brady packed ’em into Saint Patrick’s Cathedral at €40 a head, while down in the Button Factory, Bellowhead combined clatter, crash and brass with folk sensibilities, invigorating the crowd and some dusty old tunes. With a crew of 11, the BBC Radio 2 Best Folk Album of 2013 under their belt and a bit more buzz, Bellowhead gave the crowd more bang for their buck than the Brady bunch.

While these gigs where putting smiles on the faces of diverse audiences, tourists, tramps and touring hens were jigging, jumping and jiving to trad sessions all around Temple Bar. The Tradfest crew were successfully ticking a few boxes. Martin Harte and the rest of the festival team deserve a fair amount of praise for pulling together a programme that recognised and included the likes of The Fureys and The Dublin City Ramblers while also keeping things fresh with acts such as Bellowhead and We Banjo 3.

Throw some workshops into the mix, some jugglers, a few tumblers and a trailerload of farmyard animals, and there was a solid festival simmering. Two years ago farmers herded their cows through the streets of Temple Bar, infuriating and taunting taxi drivers. I missed them this year – the petting zoo and horseback rides didn’t generate half as much street theatre.

Seth Lakeman packed out St Michan’s Church on Saturday night, ripping into his creations, interpretations and reimaginings of English folk music. The combined sounds of the band blended perfectly to create a rich and vibrant tapestry, woven from threads of new and ancient traditions. Lakeman’s fiddle tends to stand out, though: the timbre is coloured and cut with mists, moods and resonances from deep Dartmoor. When he was left alone on stage, his ragged bow tore into Kitty Jay (the title track from his 2005 Mercury prize-nominated album, recorded in his kitchen with his brother), it was the musical highlight of the year so far.

As good as this was, it wasn’t the best of last week’s festival offerings. The Olllam are a strange bunch, an outfit that’s as happy playing Sligo Jazz Festival as they are playing Temple Bar Tradfest. Tyler Duncan and Michael Shimmin are Detroit natives who can be found playing rock-driven dance music or jazz fusion when they’re back home. John McSherry, a founding member of Lúnasa, teamed up with the lads and the result is described by them as Neo-Acoustic Celtic Post-Rock. I’d describe it a little differently – it’s f***in’ deadly! The band finished their European tour at Temple Bar Tradfest last Thursday, but hopefully they’ll be back to grace another festival here very soon. Their music is exciting, confounding and astounding. Style, mastery, melody and groove – The Olllam’s gig is going to be hard to beat.

Safe travels, don’t die.

Live Review: Celtic Connections: The Olllam at Oran Mor 18/1/14


Following the rousing opening to the festival from Dub Inc, the following evening The Olllam play the Oran Mor and this is a gig many have been excited about – they were recommended by The Treacherous Orchestra.

The band is formed from members of other respected bands, notably Lunasa, The Olllam’s story so far is really quite unique, they have been creating music oceans apart from each other, and released a strong debut album, so people are curious to see how it works live.

The two pipe players – American Tyler Duncan and Irish John McSherry – met when Duncan was thirteen and McSherry was already an established musician.

What followed was a kind of journey from fan-boy to peer, wherein McSherry helped Duncan develop his craft; their relationship could be seen as that of muse, artist’s apprentice or simply friends.

Duncan looks like he could be in Arcade Fire and has an intensity that makes him seem like a natural lead, while McSherry seems quite humble throughout but is impressive as always as they play tracks from their debut.

Each song is definitively traditional but played with the essence of a rock band, the audience cheer every time the enthusiastic guitarist goes solo or strums with meaning, the bass lines are truly funky and the drummer has a knack in creating a lethargic, sexy beat.

The band would be an excellent introduction into traditional music for those who enjoy jazz, acoustic or rock music; frankly anyone with a real interest in music would appreciate their inventiveness.

Highlights include the clear and steady build of ‘The Belll’, the tense cymbals in ‘Devilll for my Hurt’ and encore ‘Wavesweeper’ that, to the surprise of the audience, takes us from brooding trad to joyous salsa.

Words: Leonie Colmar

Tradfest: The old and the new meet in Temple Bar

The Olllam and Bellowhead have built their reputations on fiery live shows, which Irish audiences can experience at this week’s Temple Bar TradFest

Traditional music tends to concentrate much of its energies on the summer season, when long evenings lend themselves to the seepage of sessions outside or in, as musical circles expand and contract.

Temple Bar Tradfest, however, has built its reputation on offering a chink of musical light in the dying days of January. In recent years it has prided itself in bringing unlikely performers together, and in championing innovative artists: everyone from The West Ocean String Quartet to the Louth Contemporary Music Society’s performance of a reimagined Ó Riada Mass by Uzbek composer Dmitri Yanov-Yanovsky.

This year’s programme continues that trend, pitching young Turks alongside established acts, with a mix of music, song, dance, storytelling and free sessions.

Two bands on this year’s programme who have built their reputations on fiery live performances are The Olllam and Bellowhead.

The Olllam is the brainchild of Belfast piper John McSherry (a veteran of Lúnasa and Dónal Lunny’s Coolfin, and a founding member of At First Light). McSherry’s band, derive their name from the name given to medieval bards, features Detroit native Tyler Duncan and percussionist Michael Shimmin.

The Olllam get into the groove
For The Olllam, the groove is all. Reminiscent of Moving Hearts at their rhythmic best, the band marry blissed-out dance rhythms with conventional song structures to interpret Irish music in new ways. Gone are the conventional tune shapes, and in their place are melody lines that pursue the verse, chorus, and middle-eight structures more typical of mainstream rock and pop music.

“Everything happened really naturally,” says McSherry, “and each chord simply grew into the next. Then, Michael [Shimmin] brought a real groove to the whole thing. For me, though, it felt very natural. I’ve always made it known that I’m a big Led Zeppelin fan. I love my rock music. If it’s good music, it’s good music.”

Tyler Duncan is the other driving force of The Olllam. As well as being the first non-Irish All-Ireland piping champion, he’s a jazz enthusiast whose love of the groove underpins his production and keyboard work with The Olllam. As a teenager Duncan heard McSherry playing, and it proved to be life-changing.

“John’s playing embodies this magical balance between rawness, something primal, while also being overwhelmingly nuanced, subtle, and virtuosic,” he says. “I was blown away by how creative his phrasing was, how he made everything sound so him. It sounded so curvy and exotic to me. Even a tune I had played a million times, when he played it, it was like hearing something for the first time. And the more I got into studying his playing, the more I realised how difficult his style truly was. He’s a real one-of-a kind piper, someone who has defined his own school of playing, and his own approach.”

It seems that traditional music is experiencing something of a golden age. Bands such as Lau, Kan and Guidewires, along with The Olllam, are basking in the delights of unconventional collaboration. For Tyler, the magic is in the mix, and the pair’s love of the musical past plays a role too, informing the band’s sound.

“In terms of sound,” says Tyler, “we knew we wanted it to have a 1970s throwback haze around it – fuzzy, warm, dreamy – and to have one instrumentation for everything [two pipes, guitar, Rhodes piano, bass, and drums], with no layering. Very stripped-down, close, dry, stark, and focused. We then started just creating very simple themes, little moments that felt good to us, and just let them slowly evolve or devolve. We didn’t want the listener’s focus to be distracted by complexity, so we kept things as their simplest possible form, almost trying to skip the notes and go right into the feeling. Saying more with less, wherever possible.”

Bellowhead’s Irish influence
In 2013, Bellowhead bagged the BBC Radio 2 Folk Award for best album for BroadsideJon Boden, the band’s lead singer and fiddler, came to the world of folk through Irish music. He discovered Planxty at the age of 14, and a year later found his way to the Willie Clancy Summer School.

“That was my introduction to folk music,” he says “and it’s a lot easier to find a good Irish session than a good English one, because there are fewer players around and we just don’t have that core repertoire of tunes that you’ll get at an Irish session.”

When Bellowhead started out in 2004, Boden recalls that English folk music was in the ascendant, with singers such as Kate Rusby and Eliza Carthy hitting their stride. Nonetheless, the folk scene in the UK existed very much on the margins, and was frequently derided in ways that were rarely experienced by Irish musicians here.

“It feels very different now,” says Boden, “and I think that bands like Mumford & Sons have played a big part in that turnaround, in changing the language, and that folk music is no longer a bad thing to be associated with. And while I think we’re still quite reliant on people who got into folk music in the 1960s and 1970s, the audience is building gradually from different age groups. So it’s in a good place, I think.”

Bellowhead, an 11-member musical juggernaut that has been on the go 10 for years, has managed to keep its engines revved by focusing on the symbiotic relationship between musicians and audience.

“As a performer,” says Boden, “I’m really focused on figuring out what’s going to keep the audience interested, and if I can keep the audience interested, then I’m interested. Any song, once you’ve played it 50 times, is going to lose its sheen. But if the audience loves it, it doesn’t lose its sheen, because you really are responding to the audience. But then, I also love going to the pub and playing tunes, and that renews my core enjoyment in folk music too.”

Boden has built his reputation on a declamatory singing style, and his love of folk songs led to his A Folk Song a Day project in 2010, where he set himself the target of posting a folk song online each day for a year.

“Initially, I think I was preaching to the converted, but since it’s finished it has continued to build more among people who aren’t so familiar with where folk singing comes from, and the fact that social singing is at the heart of it. It also highlighted unaccompanied singing, which is quite a rare find here in Britain. So people are continuing to find it, and I think and hope it’s been quite a good door-opener for people into the world of folk music. And I hope that might be a post on their journey after that.”

Celtic Connections 2014: Jan 18th The Olllam and Ross Ainslie

from Jennie Macfie's Reviews

A good half of the audience piled into Oran Mor 0n Saturday night had seen Ross Ainsliein his role as a lynchpin of Treacherous Orchestra at the Old Fruitmarket the previous evening and were in search of another dose of stirring tunes and musical excitement. There was plenty of that in his set, rich with sparkling pipe and whistle playing where the endlessly versatile Ainslie combines the speed and emphasis of rock with traditional warmth and precision.

Like his late mentor Gordon Duncan,  though, Ainslie can also tear your heart with a poignant elegy or a lullaby. Ably backed by fellow Treacherosi Aly Hutton, Innes Watson, Duncan Lyall and John Somerville, with Hamish Napier on keyboards, James Mackintosh had been drafted in on percussion, always a wise move for musicians who wish to ensure their music is underpinned by a foundation of firm rhythms and delicate textures.

Rarely if ever has the integration of the pipes’ pentatonic scale and difficult drones been better achieved, resulting in some lovely and unusual musical moments. Ainslie’s first foray into songwriting, an elegy for his grandmother, beautifully sung by Napier, is hopefully the beginning of yet another musical path for him.

After such a rich musical cornucopia, just about anything else would have been an anticlimax. Anything, that is, other than The Olllam (yes, that’s three Ls). The name is derived from an Irish word for a musical master, and they describe themselves as Neo-Acoustic Celtic Post-Rock, which is as good a description as any. There were chunks of the highest quality jazz, generous dollops of 100% pure funk, a smidgen of West Coast American Doobie Brothers-type AOR, and my notes, increasingly illegible after the audience began pogo-ing enthusiastically, have scrawled references to Elvis Costello and the Attractions, Cinematic Orchestra, Lau and the word “reggae”.

The Olllam is, however, is something new, something different and something rather marvellous. At the end of their music-packed, blether-free set, the audience erupted with one voice in a full-throated hurricane roar. Had this not been in the undercroft at Oran Mor, the roof would have lifted off. Do yourself a favour, visit their store, go to their next gig. You can thank me later.

Reviews: Celtic Connections

from Herald Scotland

The often maligned folk-rock genre experienced not so much a renaissance as a complete reinvention at the hands of two bands here with quite difference approaches to playing tradition-derived music with the sort of beat that gets folks out of their seats and on to their feet.

Pipes, whistle and cittern player Ross Ainslie released one of 2013's strongest Scottish roots albums, Wide Open, and with a band largely featuring the same players he reprised much of it, illustrating the highly imaginative quality of his writing and arranging. This is tunes with a groove and an ensemble that can build effectively and dramatically, and with Ainslie's thrilling piping especially it often suggested the sound his mentor, the late Gordon Duncan might have made given similar circumstances.

While Ainslie works with melodic variety given rhythmic heft, with Ollam the real diversity goes on underneath the superb, brilliantly synchronised double whistle lines of John McSherry and Tyler Duncan. Their drummer, Michael Shimmin and bass guitarist Joe Dart play with apparently telepathic understanding, putting out now crisp, precision punctuation, now a loose, Caribbean feel, now serious heavyosity as Rhodes electric piano offers moody colours and an amplified acoustic guitar chops, picks and thrashes.

One complaint might be that McSherry could have played uilleann pipes more because with his improvising ability soaring over the rhythm section's powerful inventiveness, the effect could be beyond exhilarating. As it was, one particular passage where Shimmin opened up his kit and the whistles unfolded a slow glissando Ry Cooder would have been proud of was worth catching alone and the encore in which Irish brogue romanced Latin American metre was delicious.

In the Tradition
St Andrew's in the Square, Glasgow
Rob Adams

Celtic Connections long ago broadened its musical horizons, and continues to do so. Yet at its heart the festival remains true to the music that formed the basis of its early programmes and St Andrew's in the Square hosts a fair-sized portion of it.

Following the withdrawal due to illness of one of Friday's headlining attractions, Shetlander Jenna Reid, a kind of master and apprentices quality emerged in the opening fiddle concert as Caithness's Gordon Gunn occupied the main spot in a bill alongside Invernessian Graham Mackenzie and Reid's fellow Shetlander Ross Couper.

At 23, Mackenzie doesn't look much different from the wee lad who lit up a Scottish Fiddle Festival weekend some years ago, but his playing has matured and if he seemed a little nervous here and didn't quite achieve the flow he's capable of, he acquitted himself well across a variety of tune styles. Nerves aren't a problem for Couper and his partner, guitarist and flautist Tom Oakes, as they play with plenty of gusto. A little more persuasiveness mightn't have gone amiss, though.

Working with the subtle, inventive harmonic know-how of Brian McAlpine (keyboard) and Marc Clement (guitar), Gordon Gunn displayed a mighty repertoire of tones and tunes from a variety of sources. An original air dedicated to his father elicited a lovely near-viola-like timbre. A medley opening with Irish accordionist Mairtin O'Connor's Shop Street suggested the musical offspring of Scott Skinner and the gypsy swing tradition, and the Blue Reel had blue notes indeed as Gunn played with superb clarity, easy mobility and a touch that emphasised his feeling for his material.

Connections of a Celtic Kind: Treacherous Orchestra Recommend the Olllam

Something that absolutely sets Celtic Connections apart from other festivals is the way in which it not just highlights but actively encourages acts, and even genres, to find common ground and collaborate.

Yeah, sure, there’s some sharing at T in the Park and the likes, the odd on stage cover or backstage lover (uh-oh) but Celtic Connections is called so in good reason.

In the spirit of sharing Rave Child has been asking acts from this year’s line-up to help spread the good news and recommend which tickets you spend your precious January pennies on.

Who: Treacherous Orchestra is a large-scale trad riot.

Thirteen members but no bad luck in sight, they are a worthy Celtic Connections favourite who consistently deliver.

If the band were a beverage they’d be a fine single malt… with a gaudy bunch of cerise ‘n’ canary cocktail umbrellas stuck in for humour and d.r.a.m.a.

Where: The Old Fruitmarket

When: Friday, February 17

“We are seriously looking forward to our first show for a while on home turf, we’ve been working on some new material from our forthcoming album and we believe it retains the big sounds and feel of the first record while adding a new sonic dimension.
“Expect epic arrangements of traditional and contemporary tunes and don’t forget all the usual high energy dancing and high-jinx associated with a Treacherous Orchestra gig.”

Well, who could refuse an epic night of energy-dancing in the sonic dimension of high-jinx?

They recommend fellow traditional-music-boundary-pushers The Olllam.

Compared on their website to Radiohead (oh, music blog reader, did you just do an indie wee?) each member is known individually for their musical achievements.

This gig has bees swarmin’ roon it … geddit? Generating buzz? No?

“We’d recommend the Oran Mor double header gig on Saturday 18th with the Ross Ainslie band and The Olllam.
“The TO’s very own Ross is a brilliant piper and this gig showcases material from his new album which has lately been receiving rave reviews (including a top ten spot in the Herald Best Scottish albums of 2013).
“The Olllam’s debut album was also one of the great records of 2013 featuring genius multi-instrumentalist Tyler Duncan and Irish pipe wizard John McSherry they have an explosive sound with musicianship of the highest order; don’t miss.”

Words: Leonie Colmar

The Olllam:

Having had the great privilege to get excited about some truly outstanding progressive folk music from the Borders and in the process, praised both English and Scottish acts for pushing the boundaries and appeal of folk music, it’s great to report on some Irish music that is every bit as adventurous, exciting and unique. So unique are the Olllam in fact that the description of their sound offered on soundcloud of, “neo acoustic Celtic post rock,” may well be a genre that they occupy alone. You could of course argue that by bringing together the talent, musical imagination and diverse experience of the core trio of the olllam that something extraordinary was bound to happen. You’d be right too, as the record they have made together is something very special indeed.

In truth, the olllam are actually an Irish-American band and in their own way a super-group. The name derives from the bards of the old Irish kings, but the word ollam can simply and appropriately mean master or highest ranked. The extra L in their spelling represents the core trio of John McSherry and the Detroit natives Tyler Duncan and Michael Shimmin, three master musicians.

There’s an excellent short documentary video (watch it below) that explains how this Transatlantic partnership was forged and the special bond between Tyler and John that moved through fan worship to friendship and then mentoring and ultimately this collaboration. I was fortunate enough to catch up with John McSherry and he explained, “Yeah, we’d always been talking about doing something together over the years. Tyler would have been coming over to Ireland once a year maybe playing with his band Millish or other projects and we’d meet up here and there for tunes and craic. It was from one of these visits that we finally got the opportunity to write some tunes together. We had two or three free days and focused all our attention on composing. Tyler went back to the States and had the idea of bringing the great drummer, Michael Shimmin into the mix. It has proved to be a master stroke.”

I asked John if when they got together Tyler and he already had a vision of where their collaboration could go. He reveals that the album was always in their mind’s eye, telling me, “Before any of the melodies were composed, myself and Tyler discussed what we wanted to say with the album, how we wanted to approach the melody writing and what kind of sound we were after. Typically, in Irish music, tunes are put into ‘sets’ of two, three or more, each tune having a different mood or rhythm from the previous. We wanted to steer away from this approach and treat each track on the album as a piece on its own, like a song with verses, chorus’s, middle eights, outros and intros etc. We wanted the mood of each piece to rise and fall naturally”

There’s an edge of melancholy but the way the melodies of the pipes and whistles spiral give burst of sheer pleasure, like rays of sunlight bursting through storm clouds

This extended as far as the tunes themselves and he confirms my impressions, “If you notice, all of the tracks are minor(ish). There’s a dark and brooding feel throughout the album.” That goes a long way towards describing the sound, which has a haunted beauty. There’s an edge of melancholy but the way the melodies of the pipes and whistles spiral give burst of sheer pleasure, like rays of sunlight bursting through storm clouds. But that only gives you part of the story as there’s an infectious groove that also runs throughout. The complex rhythms keep changing the focus and attack allowing space and grace aplenty, yet the tunes develop like wordless songs and your imagination will run riot if you’ll let it. Then there’s the unusual combination of instruments, each plays its part with the Rhodes electric piano and the guitar finding their own space in the mix. Everything has its place in a skilful mix.

The Belll sets the standard, following from the brief and sparse Polllogue, it start with guitar and Rhodes chords, with whistles creating a lovely lilting air and the kick drum signalling a gear change around 35 seconds in. It’s worth mentioning the bass playing too and Joe Dart is probably the fourth member of the trio, as he plays throughout the record. Although the video suggests he came in when much of the rest of the structure of the tracks was already laid down, his inventive and funky style once more finds its own space and he makes a great contribution, melodically as well as rhythmically, but also adding to that sense of lyrical, almost narrative flow of the tunes. Take the breakdown in the middle of Three Signs Of A Bad Man and the way the track build back up again, teasing before hitting its fuzzed out climax. It’s utterly thrilling stuff.

While the whistles and pipes draw their breath from the tradition and the complexity of the jigs and reels that John and Tyler have grown up playing, the arrangements provide very different setting for the swirl and skirl of their melodic invention. The Devilll For My Hurt, with it’s impossible staccato rhythms has a modern jazz feel, while The Follly Of Wisdom has something of the blissed-out post rock vibe and  motorik beat accenting the two and four.


Everything was done over the internet. I’ve a small studio in my house where I recorded my parts and Michael and Tyler recorded their parts in Michael’s basement in the states

The video shows the olllam at work, with Tyler and John connected over Skype, but the recording sounds so seamless, it’s hard to imagine that it was completed this way. John assures me it was, however, “No. Everything was done over the internet. I’ve a small studio in my house where I recorded my parts and Michael and Tyler recorded their parts in Michael’s basement in the states. Michael and Tyler would be getting grooves together and we’d all be hooked up together via Skype, swapping ideas and passing files back and forth. It was a very new experience for all of us. We were all nicely surprised at how smoothly it worked. Everything, the melodies and arrangements just grew organically.”

The post-rock vibes continue through The Tryst After Death, another track that builds to a big chord driven climax. After a gentle intro, Bridge Of Glllass slips back into a motorik pattern, but once again the whistle dances around a melody – it’s head back eyes closed blissful stuff. It seems an odd term to use in the context, but there just seems to be so much soul in playing, that every track finds a way to spike the emotions and tingle the spine. All but the Prolllogue and one other are over six minutes long, which gives each track the room to develop and the ambition is matched by a combination of great composition and brilliant playing throughout.

With gigs imminent, the olllam have expanded to a six piece line up in order to represent what they have recorded. As Jon explains there hasn’t been much time to rehearse but he has total faith in the others as he tells me, “Well, all the rest of the guys are from the States so it’s pretty hard to hook up for rehearsals. Each of us would be working the material up on our own before touring. It’s funny, as soon as we get together everything seems to click naturally into place. The rest of the guys are such great musicians. There’s Joe Dart on Bass who is just phenomenal. Joe and Michael have a great connection together on bass and drums. When they jam together it’s just breathtaking. Then there’s Theo Katzman on guitars and Woody Goss on keys, two unbelievably talented musicians. Actually Joe, Theo and Woody make up three quarters of the hugely successful YouTube Funkadelic band Vulfpeck. Check them out, they are superb!” I can’t wait for the chance to see the olllam, when they appear in London on the 20th.

the silence that follows it’s conclusion is almost unbearable. It seems only sensible to start at the beginning and play it all again

Prayer For Tears, acting as a slower paced dramatic closer, has such elegiac beauty that the silence that follows it’s conclusion is almost unbearable. It seems only sensible to start at the beginning and play it all again. The good news is there will be a follow up and John reassures me, “Of course there will. We’re already in the process.” But that’s not all as he reveals, “Well, I also play with the Irish traditional outfit, ‘At First Light’. I’m working on a new album with them as well as a new solo album. So keeping pretty busy.”

Perhaps we will come to each of those in their turn, but for the moment the olllam have my total attention for their debut. It’s a stunner that works on every level, the writing, the musicianship, the arrangements and ultimately the listening experience. With its roots in the jigs and reels of the Irish this is music that knows no boundaries, not even the width of the Atlantic Ocean. Their website even offers two remixes form Robert Lux and The Reverb Junkie. The latter has actually worked with Tyler in his band Ella Riot and even turns Prayer For Tears into a song, vocals and all. The possibilities are seemingly limitless, but believe me when I say the olllam are absolllutely brillliant.

Review by:Simon Holland