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Spirit Review

by Ronnie D. Lankford, Jr.

Dervish's wide appeal may have something to do with its versatility. It would be easy for a listener of Spirit to drop in on several of the band's fine jigs or reels -- like "John Blessings" and "Siesta Set" -- and gain the impression that Dervish makes its living as an instrumental powerhouse. At the same time, the listener could drop in on Cathy Jordan's lovely renditions of "The Fair Haired Boy" and "The Soldier Laddie" and gain the impression that the band specializes in interpreting Celtic ballads. Only by sitting down and listening to the entire album would one realize that both impressions are correct, and that Dervish's eclecticism comes from the ability of individuals to harness their talents toward a larger purpose. With six members -- Brian McDonagh, Tom Morrow, Liam Kelly, Séamus O'Dowd, Shane Mitchell, Michael Holmes, and Jordan -- the instrumental mix of flutes, mandocello, accordion, bones, fiddle, and mandolin allows for intriguing arrangements on pieces like "O'Raghailligh's Grave" and "Swallows Tail." Even the oft-recorded Dylan song "Boots of Spanish Leather" receives a nice facelift here, with an emotive reading from Jordan. At 72 minutes, Spirit is a generous disc that attests to Dervish's continual commitment to placing their lively spin on traditional-based Irish music.

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