Four-piece trad/folk ensemble, Lonesome George is due to release their new single ‘The Lying Devil’ on July 15th and I must say it is one of the most thoughtfully constructed pieces of music I have heard in a very long time.
At the hearth of this intricate, yet lullingly warm, encapsulation of social activism, we find a buoyant batch of Belfast boys with a common philosophy against the church’s influence in Ireland. To express this critical approach to the methodology of the church, we have friends-turned-song-writing-partners, Joe Campbell-McArdle, and Myles McCormack. Joining the pair, Stephen Loughran exudes an elegant grace with his flute-playing and compositions; accompanied by Dermot Moynagh, whose distinctly unique use of the bodhran has established him as one of the best percussionists in Belfast.
The band’s naming origins have the same charismatic charm as their music, discovering ingenuity within the revelation of the very last Pinta island tortoise: ‘Lonesome George’. The age of the tortoise remains a mystery, but one can be sure he used to walk amongst dinosaurs, making him one of the rarest creatures to have walked the planet! For the band, this tortoise symbolised the dyad between old and new, and thus espousing their style to incorporate ancient traditions of Ireland and to infuse them with contemporary influences and perspective.
Following the May release of previous single ‘No One But Ourselves’, ‘The Lying Devil’ is a soothing experience that shines a light on the nature of belief in modern-day Ireland. The band carefully arranges their instrumentation so that you can feel the gradually-unravelling narrative behind the notes. The young McCormack and Campbell-McArdle who caught earworms for the uplifting spirit of traditional music sound as if they never lost their youthful outlook and consequently – the listener feels the same. Despite the potent thematic cores of their songs, the liveliness of their performance evokes a sense of innocence and adventure, like being a kid again. It is magical.
The playful elusiveness of the homely low whistle scatters an earthy romance between rich heritage and modernised culture amidst the tender, sweetly-fragile Irish lilt within the vocals. The beautiful, light timbre of the vocals is cushioned with the mesmerising resonance of Moynagh’s fluttering techniques with the bodhran, producing a mellow, slow tempo that complements the andante composition of the mandolin and guitar. The lower tones of the bodhran portray a dichotomy between the spry sound of the mandolin, making me think of the tortoise that inspired the band; having so much aged experience of the world and still finding excitement in the way its everchanging.
The dulcet twangs of the mandolin and guitar acts as a pretty blossom for a strongly rooted message of acceptance – promoting the amiable allowance of different interpretations to the mysteries of the world we live in.
The surprise inclusion of the reel (Palmers Gate) adds a soft dynamic to the single with its meandering contour of the sweet melody during the conclusive section of the song. It reminds me of the differences amongst humanity - that ultimately we are united under - following the same unpredictable archways of life in the same way the reel adheres to the contour it is made to flow upon. Additionally, it offers up new visual stimuli, the audible roots of the band inspire scenes of sitting around campfires, sharing Irish folktales, and appreciating the history of the serene environment.
The lyricism in this single is very subtle and intelligent, it was a joy to hear, it isn’t often you see thought-provoking lyrics behind a gleeful-sound track, making the listener analyse the song long after it’s finished. Lyrics like ‘It wasn’t fear that drove this pessimist / But a cruel kind of joy / For he believed that he was Lucifer / That poor unstable boy’, possibly alluding to the damnation conditioned by the church and why atheism is growing in popularity in Ireland.
The ending of the song leaves you on a relaxed note, slowly trickling the gentle strumming of the mandolin and the impact of the quaint reverberance of the reel is breath-taking, it makes you feel like you need to hear more of Lonesome George and I, personally, can’t wait to.
Ultimately, this single is didactic in its hopes to inspire acceptance of all, including those who don’t share your beliefs. It is such a powerful message, adorned with dazzling pitch changes, a seamless melodious rhythm, and a timeless style.
Lonesome George is one to look out for, easing my mind with their meditative style, I have never seen such a beautiful blend of traditional, proud heritage and modernised musical arrangement.
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Article By Rebecca Todd