Instilling the Love for Irish Music

John Doyle - Shadow and Light
John Doyle

Shadow and Light on Compass Records CD4562, 2011

With his new solo, titled Shadow and Light, Irish guitarist and singer-songwriter demonstrates that he is one of the leading creating forces in current Irish folk music. Although he is one of the most reputable guitarists in the Irish music scene, he is also a talented songwriter and vocalist. Shadow and Light includes instrumental pieces such as as ‘Killoran’s Church/Swedishish’, where he is joined by fiddlers Stuart Duncan and John Williams, with Todd Phillips on accordion and Kenny Malone on percussion. The other instrumental is “The Curraghman”, where Doyle demonstrates his signature guitar picking style. It a tribute to Donald Ward, Doyle’s uncle “who instilled in me the love of traditional music and the courage to persevere.”

Doyle’s vocal pieces as just as excellent as his instrumentals. Most of the songs on Shadow and Light are destined to be classics in the Irish folk music songbook. “Clear the Way” opens the album. It is a translation from the old Gaelic “Faugh A Ballagh” which was the rallying cry of the Irish Brigade in the American Civil War. The song tells the story of the “Fighting 69th,” and their tragic battle at Fredericksburg, Virginia where their numbers were reduced from over 1600 to less than 300 by another predominantly Irish Confederate Regiment.

“The Arabic” is named for the ship Doyle’s grandfather boarded to emigrate to the United States of America. A German submarine attacked the SS Arabic and Doyle’s grandfather was rescued by a boat and sent back to Ireland. “It’s all true, as far as I know,” says boyish Doyle.

Doyle dedicates the beautiful “Little Sparrow” to his daughter. It’s a song that has been regularly featured in his live concerts and is now available as a studio recording. Shadow and Light features some of the finest musicians in the Celtic and bluegrass scene, including Tim O’Brien on vocals, mandolin, Alison Brown on banjo, Kenny Malone on percussion, Stuart Duncan on fiddle, Todd Phillips on bass, John Williams on accordion, Pete Grant on lap steel and Michael McGoldrick on uilleann pipes and flute.

Shadow and Light is an immediately accessible album by one of the most significant musicians in Irish traditional music.

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