Under a Red Sky Night
Following almost a decade after Clan Ranald, Under A Red Sky Night (2014) is Martin’s highly-anticipated first solo album. Featuring a cast of nineteen musicians and 55 minutes of Martin’s compositions and arrangements, it was released to highly positive reviews.
Irish Music Magazine
I first heard this Donegal piano accordionist on a very fine duo recording with Luke Ward on bouzouki, totally trad with a couple of forays beyond the Donegal fiddle repertoire. Under a Red Sky Night is completely different. All but one track here is composed by Martin, and arranged for a diverse range of instruments amounting to a folk-flavoured chamber orchestra. Starting with a magnificent Spanish-inspired medley, Martin’s music moves between his native Donegal and other Celtic traditions, as well as drawing on more contemporary styles. Imagined Cummunities opens with an archive recording of legendary travelling fiddler John Doherty, and weaves this into an anthem for culture and community which embraces much more than Irish music. Moment Music is an improvisation which reminds me of the connection between Donegal and Scottish fiddle music, a link to the playing of Aly Bain, Phil Cunningham, Duncan Chisholm and the like. The next two tracks spring from traditional Donegal melodies, Bog an Lochan and a polka from the 19th century James Tourish manuscript collection. Martin transforms them both into powerful ensemble pieces, one fast, one slow.
That single traditional track also comes from the James Tourish collection. Today’s Tourish takes a composition by another great stomach Steinway artist, Alan Kelly’s polka Trip to Dingle, and slows it down to a swaggering march before launching into two polkas from this old manuscript, in a medley with all the punch and panache of the best modern Irish dance music. The beautiful sweet Liobhan Song, the gentle Lullaby and the final Horseman, Pass By all rely on the expressiveness of the solo accordion in a master’s hands here. The spooky Agnis Tompson’s Final Dance and The West Gates set the accordion against complex arrangements of strings, vocals, brass and woodwind, to tell stories of Scottish witches and Donegal fiddlers – not such unlikely bedfellows. The latter is a set of reels which could easily become traditional. Which only leaves The Missed Step, an accordion showpiece that would make a fitting finale for any CD. Although there are many performers on this album, Under a Red Sky Night is one of those rare recordings where the composition, arrangement and performance is largely down to a single musician: this is Martrin Tourish’s music, and I’d say it will make him a lot of friends at home and abroad.
Celtic Music Fan
Martin Tourish is back with an album that promises to enchant and enrich the soul with historical content in twelve artfully crafted tracks.
I compare the experience to watching a UFO land. The beautiful album cover alone (orange, red , black and a bird silhouette ) is telling. Under a Red Night Sky also presents the involvement of Tim Edey and the technical talent of Alexis Nealon who engineered and mastered this superb recording. I checked out the list of artists in the liner notes and I give it a two thumbs up. Or even three.
It’s an eclectic mix of traditional melodies, classical influences and samples from music archives that showcase the stories behind the tunes. In my dark bedroom, it seems as if the ceiling opens up to reveal a wild, fantastic and beautifully scary world that is inhabited by primal emotions. This album is very visual.
It is easy to get lost in the beautiful music of Martin Tourish whom I wrote about more than a year ago, highlighting his achievements (being able to perform with legendary personalities including NASA astronaut Cady Coleman). Under a Red Night Sky is a testament to his sophisticated command of technique and composition.
It is hard to choose my favorite tracks out of the twelve because, each tune has its story to tell. Variation on a Theme from a James Tourish Collection (track 6) is a favorite due to its emphasis on nuance and atmosphere. I also love Imagined Communities because it features John Doherty’s voice which enhances the ambience. The other stand out track for me is Horseman, Pass By. It is the last track in the album. Being alone in the dark and listening to this gives me goosebumps. You know what they say about the curtain between the physical world and the unseen becomes thin- it’s exactly the feeling I have.
Under a Red Night Sky plays like a good fantasy/historical/sci-fi novel. You don’t want to miss a chapter. All the meticulous love for detail of talents involved in the making of this album are evident as you listen again and again. It is something you can listen to ten years from now and realize how timeless and beautiful it is.