In the 1970s, the vocalist and keyboardist Tríona Ní Dhomhnail was a member of two of Ireland's most acclaimed traditional bands, Skara Brae and The Bothy Band. At the end of that decade, she emigrated to the United States, settling in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. There she met Claudine Langille (banjo, mandolin, vocals), Zan McLeod (bouzouki, guitar, mandocello) and Mark Roberts (banjo, bodhran, flute, whistles), American musicians with an interest both in Irish folk and in American roots music. The resulting quartet Touchstone recorded two albums, of which THE NEW LAND was the first.
Due to the prominence of banjo and the provenance of some of the musicians, the music here is often viewed as some kind of Irish-bluegrass hybrid. However, I view THE NEW LAND as essentially an Irish traditional record. Certainly the instrumentals "Kilmoulis Jig/The Maid at the Spinning Wheel", "The Flowing Tide/Cooley's Hornpipe", "The Flying Reel/My Maryann/Game of Love", "Three Polkas" and "Bolen's Fancy/The Dunmore Lasses/The Maid Behind the Bar/The Glass of Beer" are as orthodox as anything recorded in Ireland. "The New Land" is also perfectly Irish in spirit, but reflects the interest in glossier production and synthesizers that overtook the genre in the 1980s.
The songs, however, show more stylistic range and touch on North American themes. Claudine Langille is main vocalist on "Susanna Martin", about the Salem witch trials, and "Farewell to Nova Scotia", a paean to that region of Canada. Tríona Ní Dhomhnaill contributes "Jack Haggerty" (in which she alternates in each verse with Langille) and "Casadh cam na Feadaraighe", which are rooted in Ireland and the latter even sung in Irish, as well as "Song in F" which looks forward to her later work in the New Age genre.
All in all, THE NEW LAND is a very strong record and highly recommended to anyone who enjoys Irish traditional music or anything subsumed under that marketing label "Celtic". I regard "Bolen's Fancy/The Dunmore Lasses/The Maid Behind the Bar/The Glass of Beer" as one of the finest instrumental tracks in the Green Linnet label's vast, vast catalogue. Now, I feel that the album does lose some momentum for me in its second half, which is why I've detracted a star, but there is nonetheless so much memorable material here.
(Verified purchase from a Madrid record shop)