PREORDER: Landless – Lúireach

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There is something about voices in harmony that make you feel good – and Landless have this to perfection. There are no airs and graces, just beautiful harmonies, their sound uplifting and spiritual, even ethereal.”
— KLOF magazine

Landless are: Lily Power, Méabh Meir, Ruth Clinton and Sinéad Lynch.

The Irish quartet sings centuries old ballads as well as more recently penned folk songs. 

Sometimes unaccompanied and at times with subtle instrumentation, their vocally rich music is dark and patient; spellbinding and gorgeous.

Lúireach is their second album and as with their acclaimed debut Bleaching Bones (2018), it is produced by John ‘Spud’ Murphy, known for his work with artists such as Lankum and ØXN.

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Folk music emerging from Dublin seems to be everywhere at the moment – demonstrated most clearly by Lankum gaining a host of ‘Album of the Year’ nods at the end of 2023 – but it would be a mistake to call this a movement, much less any kind of revival. While Lankum, John Francis Flynn, Ye Vagabonds, Lisa O’Neill et al might be new to a lot of audiences, these artists have been exploring and expanding what folk music can be for years, decades even. And this is just as true of Landless, the quartet who’ve been singing together since 2013, finding each other through the traditional singing scene in the city and, crucially, the Sacred Harp singing community.

Working once again with John ‘Spud’ Murphy (the Lankum producer and ØXN member), Lúireach sees the quartet adding sparingly-used instrumentation – Ruth’s aching pump organ on Death & The Lady, Méabh’s shruti box on Ej Husari, Lankum’s Cormac MacDiarmada on fiddle, viola and banjo throughout, even some mournful trombone from Alex Borwick on The Newry Highwayman. As Lily explains, “A lot of the instrumentation happened organically as we were recording, while some elements we have used live for years, like the organ. We tend not to make these kinds of decisions in advance, but make suggestions as we go and see how everyone feels about it. Hopefully the album still has the impact of the unaccompanied singing, with a bit of variation this time around.”

The songs on Lúireach are from remarkably diverse sources and eras: the likes of Blackwaterside, Death & The Lady and My Lagan Love (learned from Traveller Paddy Doran, Norma Waterson and Méabh’s late father respectively) are probably known to even the casual fan of traditional music, while Lúireach Bhríde was commissioned for the RTÉ Folk Awards in 2018 and the closing song Ej Husari was learned from teacher and singer Eva Brunovská at the annual Rozhybkosti festival in Slovakia. Some of these songs are centuries old, some remarkably recent, yet when sung by Landless, they all sound timeless and eternal.

The songs for the album were gathered over a number of years, Ruth explains, and while the melody and lyrics are paramount, there is a common theme for many of the inclusions. “Frequently in traditional songs women are described as a passive love interest, in terms of their relationship to a male character. It is refreshing to find songs that challenge this power dynamic, but we are not totally hard-line about it, and sing plenty of old-fashioned love songs.”

Landless are “feeling very grateful to be surrounded by so many talented people.” As Sinéad explains, “The traditional music scene was alive and kicking long before we arrived. Perhaps there was a generation gap where the Celtic Tiger took hold and people were too busy with flip phones and tracker mortgages, but it’s always been there. When we first began singing and attending sessions there was a great buzz around us all and we felt most cherished. I guess seeing folks in their twenties and thirties eager to listen and learn was rousing for the scene. But, make no mistake, those singers taught us what we know, and surround and encourage us to this day. We are most certainly part of a thriving community.”

Lúireach is an album of quiet power, soaked in tradition but finding new and exciting ways to present these remarkable songs, songs that are full of melancholy, love, death and mystery. Lúireach rewards your close attention.