Dervish – Decade and Midsummer’s Night

Decade and Midsummer's Night
Decade and Midsummer's Night

Most bands have a tough time putting out one record a year, but Dervish finds it hard to do just one. Their music is so infectious they can’t help but want to spread it around.

Dervish has been around awhile – 11 years to be exact. For those who missed out, the band has released Decade, a “best of” release that culls their first five albums. Once you’re up to date, Midsummer’s Night will show you what Dervish has been up to lately.

Dervish is a seven-piece band from the Irish county of Sligo (not to be confused with Sluggo, where the denizens are far more hostile!). Five musicians (Liam Kelly, Shane Mitchell, Martin McGinley, Brian McDonagh, and Michael Holmes) founded the group in 1989. They’ve since toured the world, bringing Irish roots music to the masses. In ’91 they added singer Cathy Jordan, and All-Ireland champion Shane McAleer. By ’98, Shane needed a break, and he was replaced by Seamus O’Dowd (they wanted someone with a more Irish-sounding name). This is the lineup for their current release Midsummer’s Night. You’ll be hard-pressed to find a more dreamy Celtic CD.

From the opener, “Midsummer Night” to the final strains of “Red Haired Mary,” this is authentic Celtic music at its exuberant best. Dervish don’t need no steenking feets on fire to be exciting.

Like many other indigenous musical forms, at first listen, Irish music can sound like one ongoing song, just constant diddle-diddling. But after some listening, you discover that what at first sounds like endless repetition is actually continually evolving and changing variations. The sheer rhythmic and melodic inventiveness of Celtic music within the musical forms of reels, jigs, slides, and songs is a tribute to human creativity. Dervish mines these fields as deeply as any Celtic group. Listen to the intricate variations of the jig “Tenpenny Bit” to see just how complex and interesting Irish music can be.

The beauty of “folk music” is that it can be adopted and expanded by new generations as they embrace older musical forms and melodies. Dervish does for Celtic music what young bands like Nickel Creek are doing for bluegrass; pushing it vibrantly into the 21st century. Give Dervish a spin, it is a delightfully dizzying musical diversion.

This article originally appeared in VG‘s Feb. ’02 issue. All copyrights are by the author and Vintage Guitar magazine. Unauthorized replication or use is strictly prohibited.

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