We Banjo 3's "Haven" seems like a sort of reckoning with forces of Celtic music meeting up with American mountain music to produce a unified whole for the Irish band. It's a beautiful record.
"Haven" features a mix of instrumental tracks and clear-minded ballads. Not all is right in the world of the narrator of some of these songs, but redemption and resolution are on the horizon, both distant and achievable, in equal measure.
There is an assuredness in the composition and playing, which has little equal. The production is crisp, clear, measured and worldly. The instrumentals are infused with Celtic figures and timing, but those musical bones have the meat of American grit surrounding them. Take "Annabelle's Cannon," which starts with a banjo roll introduction, sweeps into an accompanying fiddle harmony and brings to mind a purposeful climb up the side of the hollow to meet the sun. It's a style which calls to mind John Reischman's finest compositions. The ballad "War Of Love" could be a big-hat country song (with a banjo synthesizer and well-timed music drop), but here it's stripped down and musically true to itself. "Sugar House" is as traditional American picking as it comes, but stands out for its clarity and simplicity, with a promise bursting at the seams.
We Banjo 3 consists of two sets of brothers, Enda and Fergal Scahill and Martin and David Howley. Among them, they have countless Irish musician awards. The fiddle playing stands out, at times traditional American style as well as with a long-bow sound that calls to mind Celtic pipes.
The witches brew between Celtic and American vibes is complete on this record. "Pack It Up" is a simple, rolling song, a wistful road song. But it never feels forced or or lacking in genuine feeling. Followed by "Marry Me Monday," there's a lot stewing in the We Banjo 3 cauldron.
"Haven" leaves a mark. It is powerful and righteous. It's a music reckoning of styles that brings the listener along on the journey.