Review: Tolka, One House

Tolka
Image Courtesy of Tolka

When Melbourne trad group Tolka announced that they would be spending six months in Belfast to record their new album One House with with Dónal O’Connor and Brian Finnegan here’s what I expected: The quartet would get so immersed in the Northern Irish trad scene that they’d emerge with a plethora of newly collected traditional tune sets and the occasional song about being away from home.

What I didn’t expect was an album of ten original tunes and songs steeped in, but not constrained by the tradition. Tolka have spent their time abroad getting inside themselves and writing some amazing music in the process.

One House is a stunning blend of instrumentals and contemporary folk songs that shows the band growing from their debut release Tunes From The External Hardrive. It’s obvious the band are enjoying playing with the production with loops, drones, steel drums, vocal samples (in “The Giant”), and even drums on a number of tracks. Tolka’s trademark ear for arrangement, with the banjo, guitar, fiddle and flute all intertwining to create captivating music, is out in full force on One House – I recommend checking out “The Old Sweetshop” and see if you don’t crack a smile when the tune step changes about halfway through.

While the album is largely instrumental the two songs – “Mulberry Sky” and “This Old Lie” – are standouts and demonstrate just how strong Tolka are as lyricists, not just tune writers. Despite being originals the songs sound as timeless as the tunes – I can see “Mulberry Sky” in particular becoming a firm favourite.

Overall One House is an outstanding release from one of the true rising stars of the Australian folk scene. A completely contemporary folk album that is rooted heavily in the tradition, One House is Tolka at the peak of their powers.

One House is due for release on the 1st March, 2015

1 Comment

  1. January 30, 2015 at 13:58

    […] “One House is an outstanding release from one of the true rising stars of the Australian folk scene. A completely contemporary folk album that is rooted heavily in the tradition, One House is Tolka at the peak of their powers” – Gareth Hugh Evans reviews One House by Tolka. Review here […]


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