Tír Na NÓg: The Dark Dance

Irish folk duo’s first album for over four decades is well worth the wait.

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Maybe it’s the fourth album that’s the difficult one, judging by the 42-year gap since Tír Na NÓg’s third. But the return of progressive Irish folk duo Leo O’Kelly and Sonny Condell is most welcome, both as a celebration of their historical contribution and, more pertinently, the fact that the zeitgeist has come back around to their way of musical thinking.

For newbies, Tír na nÓg released a trio of well-received, if hardly chartbusting, LPs between 1971 and ’73, and moved in rock circles with support slots for Tull and ELP. Their name, derived from Gaelic mythology, means ‘land of eternal youth’, and there is more than a hint of timeless elegance about their studio return. The Dark Dance is an acoustically mounted piece of great refinement, on a record often embellished by strings and moments of Eastern promise. Opener You In Yellow has the delicate literacy of Al Stewart, and more than once there is an echo of Zeppelin at their most unplugged. It’s a pleasingly unhurried album that keeps revealing more detail like a fine painting. After all, last year’s four-track EP notwithstanding, their recording career’s been on hold since the Heath administration, so why hurry?

Prog Magazine contributor Paul Sexton is a London-based journalist, broadcaster and author who started writing for the national UK music press while still at school in 1977. He has written for all of the British quality press, most regularly for The Times and Sunday Times, as well as for Radio Times, Billboard, Music Week and many others. Sexton has made countless documentaries and shows for BBC Radio 2 and inflight programming for such airlines as Virgin Atlantic and Cathay Pacific. He contributes to Universal's uDiscoverMusic site and has compiled numerous sleeve notes for the Rolling Stones, Eric Clapton and other major artists. He is the author of Prince: A Portrait of the Artist in Memories & Memorabilia and, in rare moments away from music, supports his local Sutton United FC and, inexplicably, Crewe Alexandra FC.