Album Reviews

Ten Strings and a Goat Skin

Artist:     Ten Strings and a Goat Skin

Album:     Après du Poêle

Label:     Self-released

Release Date:     06/10/2016

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The name almost sounds like a children’s book to read to my niece sometime, but it’s truth in advertising. Combine guitar, violin and bodhran and you’ve got just what this trio promises. Then add banjo and stray percussion. Strictly speaking, it’s twenty-odd strings, a couple drums, a goat skin/tipper and some vocal cords here—and that’s not counting the guest cast—but they’re really enough of a mouthful already. Whatever you call it, the result is a rollicking listen that feels over too quickly.

The trio shows the colors of their native Prince Edward Island as vibrantly as Scotland or Ireland. Après du Poêle means “around the wood stove” (referring to the communal experience of gathering for warmth in winter). A few lively reels show those cozy roots here, but more than half the album is written by the band themselves. Clearly they’re interested in the other vital half of the folk tradition: expanding the custom as much as maintaining it.

For each pub dance here there’s an original piece that puts a little spin on the form. “Shoot the Moon” includes a minor Indian-tinged passage before becoming a frenetic jig in 7/4. A couple old-timey tunes get beautiful harmony choruses or subtle shadings of modern keys, while the good friends on “Dukh Dukh Goat” stomp out a rowdy medley perfect for calling those last orders of the night. You don’t have to live as far north as Canada to have cabin fever, and you don’t have to be freezing to enjoy heating the place with such energetic tunes either. Après du Poêle makes a happily colorful listen anywhere and anytime.

—Geno Thackara

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