I DRAW SLOW : WHITE WAVE CHAPEL (Pinecastle Records)

In the folk music world on this side of the Atlantic, it’s hard to throw a stick without hitting a band composed of Americans doing their level best at performing traditional Celtic music, be it Irish, Scottish or elsewhere among the Celtic nations. In the “turnabout is fair play” scheme of things, then, it’s nice to encounter a Dublin-based outfit like I Draw Slow taking on the American tradition … and doing it rather well. Given that Pinecastle has been historically among the leading bluegrass labels of the past quarter-century, it’s an additional pleasant surprise that these young Irish folks are well-versed in old time music, in particular the Appalachian string band and vocal style. Colin Derham’s banjo work is clawhammer style rather than Scruggs three-finger, Adrian Hart is thoroughly adept at the haunting drone of the mountain fiddle style, and bassist Konrad Liddy provides a strong, solid back line.

The heart of the band, though, is the brother-sister duo of Dave and Louise Holden who, with one exception, authored all thirteen tracks on White Wave Chapel, their third release. Their lyrics are evocative and imaginative, yet remarkably in an entirely American idiom and vernacular – no Gaelic transposed to fit the hills and hollers. Songs like “Bread & Butter” and “Hide & Seek” resonate rhythmically and lyrically of a Saturday night square dance, or a back porch song session. Louise Holden sings with a clear, ringing voice that, while it’s not quite in the Hazel Dickens mold, will remind more than a few listeners of the power and flexibility of Ginny Hawker.

Considering that the foundation of American old time music is, in large part, the fiddle tunes and ballads brought by the earliest Scots-Irish settlers of Appalachia, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that young Dubliners like these folks should take to it so readily.

– John Lupton