The Olllam (Compass Records, 2012)
One of the most exciting Celtic music inspired albums is The Olllam by Belfast-born uilleann piper John McSherry and American musicians Tyler Duncan and Michael Shimmin (both from Detroit, Michigan). The result of this transatlantic collaboration is a set of seven extraordinary instrumental pieces that take Irish music and mixes it with jazz fusion, blues and the energy of newer forms of rock.
The three musicians are outstanding instrumentalists. John McSherry is one of the finest uilleann pipers in the world and is well known in the Irish music circuit as a member of celebrated Irish group Lúnasa. Duncan and Shimmin are members of Irish-jazz group Millish. Duncan also plays in the dance-rock band My Dear Disco/Ella Riot.
The trio plays a rich palette of sounds with a focus on Irish pipes and whistles. Duncan is a multi-instrumentalist and adds depth with the Rhodes electric piano and various guitars. Shimmin contributes a wide variety of percussive sounds, using a drum kit and an assortment of hand percussion. The trio is reinforced with the electric bass of Joe Dart. It’s an exquisite combination of virtuosic acoustic music with electric instruments.
The Olllam was developed thanks to the internet. The three musicians rehearsed and composed live on Skype and assembled the tracks back and forth one part at a time between emails.
“We really wanted to investigate the melodies but focus on simplicity and memorability. Everything had a purpose with no excess,” says Duncan. “Together we created a feeling of a narrative; each song is highly personal and tells a story. There are verses, pre-choruses and bridges instead of the traditional Irish tune forms.”
“Conceptually we took a more pop approach but really wanted to make sure it sounded totally organic at the same time. Basically, I was thinking more as a composer and less as a drummer,” adds Shimmin.
“I think we were all nicely surprised at how quickly and easily our ideas merged together and manifested into the music – everything seemed to fall into place right from the start,” indicates McSherry. “It was like we all knew instinctively that this was to be a special musical journey.”
The The Olllam is an extraordinary Irish fusion album by three masters happily at work.
Buy The Olllam