Music: The Outside Track

How It’s New York: The title of the CD is Flash Company. Where is company more flash than in NYC?
How It’s Irish: The band The Outside Track is Canadian, Scottish and Irish.

In sweet songs, some with witty twists, and accomplished instrumentals, Flash Company 

puts a smile on your face as it seamlessly weaves different trad styles.

An earlier version of this article was first published in Irish Examiner USA, Dec. 11, 2012.

We learned today that flutist/vocalist Norah Rendell won the Female Vocalist of the Year award at The Livies, Irish Traditional Music Award. Congratulations Norah! 

Flash Company, The Outside Track

11 Tracks.

The Outside Track are a great band: musical, lively, funny.   It’s not an all-female band, thanks to guitarist Cillian O’Daliagh, but it’s hard to escape a subversive, feminist slant to the selections.

There are no female victims on the CD, led astray by charming rovers.
In fact, there is at least one song about a female leading those rovers astray. 

What can I say, that makes me smile.
Take the title song “Flash Company,” in which an older woman looking back on her early, wild days.
You hear a lot of versions of this from the point-of-view of guys, often having turned into maudlin drunkards asking Mairi a Stor to lay them down.

Here, the singer is rueful, but the song is upbeat and not self-pitying at all:

“Tie a yellow handkerchief in remembrance of me
Wear it around your neck, my love, in flash company.
Flash company, my boys, like so many more
If it hadn’t a been for flash company
I’d never have been so poor.”

Grrl power.

The song is infectiously catchy, and you get the feeling that the woman who used to be so “flash” isn’t as sorry as all that.

I had an opportunity to see this Irish, Scottish, Canadian group perform when I was in Celtic Colours Festival in Cape Breton in October, and picked up their latest CD.  Flash Company is  a fusion of sounds, and its charm makes it a great one for the season.  In sweet songs, some with witty twists, and accomplished instrumentals, the CD puts a smile on your face as it seamlessly weaves different trad styles.

Norah Rendell
is Canadian, Mairi Rankin, of Beolach, is a Cape Breton homey, harper Ailie Robertson is Irish, as is guitarist Cillian O’Daliagh, and accordionist Fiona Black is Scottish.

The CD opens with Canadian Norah Rendell, who sings lead vocals with a clear voice full of attitude, and also plays flute, on “False Knight on the Road,” a song about a small child meeting the devil that always seemed to me to have a kind of Solstice vibe about it. I’m only familiar with Maddy Prior’s version of it; here it’s a little more swingy and upbeat.

“The Body Parts Set” shows off Ailie Robertson’s harp, keeping things mellow, until the second tune brings things off to more of a driving beat, with Fiona Black’s accordion taking over.
Cape Breton fiddler Mairi Rankin takes the bridge, playing a tune that alludes to Jerry Holland’s slow air “My Cape Breton Home.”
The late, great fiddler Jerry Holland is also alluded to in “Fishcakes and Brandy”, an original tune by British Columbian fiddler Daniel Lapp, who wrote it as a tribute to him (I saw him in Cape Breton as well; stay tuned for a write-up of his CD). It’s a gorgeous, hummable waltz that begs for instant replay.

Because of the Scottish and Nova Scotia connection, there are tunes you wouldn’t hear on a straight Irish band: strathspeys, for example, such as the ones played in the set “The Testimonial,” which then conclude with an Irish reel, “The Donegal Tinker,” which liner notes tell us the band learned from Cathal Hayden’s solo album.

There are also original tunes, including Mairi Rankin’s lovely jig in “Petit Sarny.” Rankin is one of the best fiddlers out there, I think; if you have a chance to see her, go at once.

More of that fusion appears in the aptly named “The Transatlantic,” which includes Scottish and Irish reels and jigs. Other songs on the CD include the pensive “The Hawk and the Crow,” in which birds compare the meaning of their plumage, and the sly “Whitby Maid,” about a girl who scams passing sailors, in collusion with her dad.

Overall, this is without doubt one of the more satisfying trad CDs you’ll pick up this year, with strong instrumental, smart songs and a youthful energy that keeps the music airborne. 
Here’s hoping we get to see them in New York soon. 
Click here for reuse options!
Copyright 2012 New York Irish Arts