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‘If No Crows lived in London, they’d be famous by now’
Geoff Wallis, Irish Music Review.com
‘The four musicians possess an emphatic understanding of each other’s musical nuances and the results are collective alchemy in action. Magpie is a gloriously freewheeling eclectic combination which, like NoCrows, defies classification’
John O’Regan, fRoots
‘You can sense the pleasure they find in each other’s playing’
Joe Breen, The Irish Times
‘Swing rarely felt this good’
Siobhán Long, The Irish Times
LATEST PRESS RELEASE
NoCrows New 2012 Line Up
Sligo-based eclectic music ensemble NoCrows have announced their festival and concert line up for 2012. Long time collaborator, Russian virtuoso violinist Oleg Ponomarev, who rose to fame in the 90’s with Russian Gypsy group Loyko, takes over the fiddle role from Steve Wickham who will be taking a sabbatical with his other group, The Waterboys, promoting their W.B. Yeats Project.
On rare occasions Steve will be guesting with NoCrows for some concerts. NoCrows will continue to play Steve’s compositions in his absence and hopefully he will be able to join them more regularly again in 2013.
Oleg and three of the founder members, Anna Houston, Felip Carbonell and Eddie Lee, have already toured successfully in Ireland and abroad, most lately in Switzerland in 2011.
PRESS RELEASE 2010
Sligo based group NoCrows are making waves in the folk and world music circuit this year with appearances at two major European festivals starting with Glastonbury’s acoustic stage last June, sharing the stage that day with such luminaries as Ray Davies (The Kinks), Fairport Convention, Jason Mraz and Hugh Cornwell (The Stranglers).
The band, which plays a unique blend of Irish traditional, classical and world music, is a quartet of Sligo musicians from very different backgrounds: Steve Wickham (of Waterboys fame) on violin and vocals, moved to Sligo from his native Dublin in the early nineties and has been an integral part of Sligo’s music scene ever since. Mallorcan maestro Felip Carbonell, on Spanish guitar and vocals, has resided in Strandhill for over 15 years, as has Swiss multi-instrumentalist Anna Houston, who is as comfortable playing cello in Sligo Baroque Orchestra as banjo and mandolin in local trad sessions. The quartet is completed by double bassist Eddie Lee, the band’s only Sligo native, who has been part of Sligo’s modern music scene, performing with rock, soul, folk, jazz, world and classical groups since 1981.
NoCrows repertoire is truly global as their music ranges from Portugal to Moldova, from Brittany to Russia, from Venezuela to Greece and beyond. Always on the lookout for a good tune, the band borrows from the classical oeuvre as it does from jazz, trad, folk and world music.
The group has two CDs on their own label Crows Records and Dervish’s Whirling Discs. Their live debut CD, Live at the Strand was recorded in late 2006 and released in 2007 to critical acclaim. (“Swing rarely felt this good”- Siobhan Long of The Irish Times). Last year’s Magpie, described by The Irish Times as “A beautifully wrought selection of instrumental music” caught the public imagination once more. “I think Magpie is one of the reasons why the band has started to gain international recognition”, says Eddie Lee, “it’s an album we are very proud of and contains original material written by each member. We have been mixing genres for a few years now, so, in a way, Magpie is NoCrows just beginning to discover our own voice.”
NoCrows, who played in Mallorca, Switzerland and Belgium in 2008, also played some of Europe’s biggest folk festivals this year, Dranouter Folk Festival and Dranouter aan Zee in Belgium, sharing stage with Buena Vista Social Club among others.
Irish, German, Belgian and Swiss dates follow in the autumn before the band records its next CD. In the meantime members of the band can be heard performing an acoustic session every Wednesday, in what they describe as the band’s’ “birthplace”, ‘Shoot the Crows’ pub in Sligo. The band’s two CDs, distributed by Claddagh records, are available in good record stores and online at Townsend Records (UK) and CD Baby (worldwide).
Magpie, Whirling Discs WHRL012
NoCrows is an eclectic quartet featuring violinist Steve Wickham, Anna Houston from Switzerland on cello and mandolin, Spanish guitarist (and one-time Dervish manager) Felip Carbonell and bassist Eddie Lee. Their second album Magpie features a gabhail of tunes from mainland and eastern European sources, original tunes and an Astor Piazzolla cover for good measure. The stylistic range extends to Klezmer and Gypsy with strongly baroque feeling creeping in on occasion. Des de Mallorca a L’Alguer veers from hoedown to more pronounced Sardinian strains while Sa Sibil.la careers between atmospheric semi-classical and German baroque styles. Houston’s title track recalls Irish roots while The Hot Bulgar sees them firming on Klezmer cylinders. The four musicians possess an emphatic understanding of each other’s musical nuances and the results are collective alchemy in action. Magpie is a gloriously freewheeling eclectic combination which, like NoCrows, defies classification
© John O’Regan, fRoots, July 2009
When I walked into Sligo folk pub Shoot the Crows early in January this year I thought I would get something different but nothing could have prepared me for the musical awakening that awaited me. I was totally bushwhacked by the untamed rhythms, musical ingenuity and, most of all, the sheer unfettered originality of resident group ‘No Crows’.
No Crows latest offering ‘Magpie’ bleeds with creative brilliance and this CD transports us to an almost Dickensian world of musical grandeur. There is astonishing musical range, depth and complexity to the No Crows oeuvre; I firmly believe that they are the most unique group of their kind in Ireland today. I find many shades and moods in No Crows from Ennio Morricone to classical composers and more cultish artists such as Nick Cave. No Crows admit that a lot of the tunes they play are in minor keys and the mood of some of these tunes is comparable to sombre pieces like John Williams’ Schindler’s List theme, one that I can imagine No Crows doing justice to.
‘Magpie’ and the music of No Crows in general might aptly be described as cinematic, for it conjures a veritable array of images; flickering lights and furtive shadows. This would be ideal film score material and its disposition reminds me of several great scores I have come across lately including Johnny Greenwood’s exceptional and unsettling work for There Will Be Blood and Nick Cave’s masterful scoring of The Assassination of Jesse James by The Coward Robert Ford (especially the latter). At one of the Shoot the Crows sessions I attended, No Crows played a tune called ‘Five to Six/Exit Music For A Film’ and it features on the CD. The group semi–joked at the end of another piece that it was like ‘Entrance Music For A Film’ but I latched onto the observation and I personally would love to hear the music of No Crows in the context of a film soundtrack.
The four members of No Crows come from diverse musical traditions and pastiche their own distinctive talents into the fascinating melting pot that is ‘Magpie’. Steve Wickham of The Waterboys, as fine a fiddler as you will ever hear, has never sounded better and his wonderfully tempestuous fiddle playing is a pure treat. Mallorcan Felip Carbonell is a passionate performer who has stamped indelibly the imprint of his own native musical tradition on ‘Magpie’. Eddie Lee brings great scale to this work with his distinctive grooves on the double bass. Anna Houston is a gifted multi–instrumentalist whose playing on the cello and mandolin complements perfectly; she is a talented writer too as is evidenced by her titular track ‘Magpie’.
No Crows ‘Magpie’ album possesses a sometimes Hermannesque feel but there is no dearth of upbeat stuff either: ‘Mimi’s Chorinho’ composed by bassist Eddie Lee for his newborn daughter is a musical delight and a surefire toe–tapper.
‘Magpie’ traverses acres of musical tradition with everything here from a Gregorian chant (‘Sa Sibil–la’ which Felip learned from his aunt who sang it in Palma Cathedral) to a Greek traditional (‘Pernod’) and a rare Venezuelan tune (‘La Partida’). This is an array of international instrumentals to render the word eclectic virtually redundant. The group’s originals are gems too: in Anna Houston’s ‘Magpie’, the traditional roots she shares with Steve Wickham surface; Wickham’s opening salvo ‘Crowswing’ sees two “duelling fiddles” (his and Russian Oleg Ponomarev’s) go to war in a piece that is tantamount to “a Russian bandit tune.” The group benefits from the services of an interesting cast of guest musicians, notably Cathy Jordan whose elegiac composition ‘Claudia’ features as track 2.
I have heard the No Crows session in Shoot the Crows aptly described as “world class” by one observer, a description I thoroughly agree with, and the same holds true of this album. The album ‘Magpie’ would aptly be described as world music, for it represents a fascinating mosaic of musical traditions and influences. This is high concept stuff, full of texture and nuance that brings you on a mind–expanding musical journey across oceans and continents. Magpie’ is a handsomely mounted, richly textured album of oceanic depth and dazzling musical range; this is a collection of expertly arranged and lovingly recorded world music.
The stellar front cover artwork by Heidi Wickham, depicting two busy crows, deserves a special mention; this stark but striking painting reminds me of the moody paintings of Caravaggio and matches the mood of the music. A photo of the No Crows members donning masks in a forest on the CD sleeve adds further mystique to this inestimable group.
The music world looks very different since I discovered ‘No Crows’ – a group that constitute a university of musical excellence. Listening to the album ‘Magpie’ is like therapy; it is a haunting piece of work and its tunes are timeless and enduring while its creators are endlessly inventive and imaginative. Discovering No Crows lit up the early months of 2009 for me, a time that may otherwise have seemed like a dull and grey wasteland as has been the case for so many. The No Crows repertoire is a well of musical excellence that I know I will draw from again and again.
© Marty McCool, Music Reviews, Feb 2009
You would want an open mind to get full value from this vibrant second album by an ad hoc quartet formed out of regular sessions at the Sligo pub from which they took their name. Their music, as they say, “ranges from Irish traditional to classical and gypsy swing, as well as folk tunes from Finland, Moldova, Russia, Venezuela, Greece and beyond”.
In lesser hands, this would be a recipe for a well- meaning if ham-fisted (sic) turkey, but the hands here are pretty hot – not least violinist Steve Wickham of Waterboys fame. He is joined by exceptional Mallorcan guitarist Felip Carbonell, Anna Houston (cello and mandolin), double bassist Eddie Lee and a number of guests for what is a beautifully wrought selection of instrumental music. You can sense the pleasure they find in each other’s playing, but against that, their diversity leaves them short of a signature sound.
© Joe Breen, The Irish Times, August 2008
Live at the Strand,
Whirling Discs WHRL 010; 54 minutes; 2006
The Strand in question is a well-known bar in Strandhill, Co. Sligo, though this intriguing quartet began life at the equally renowned Shoot the Crows (hence in the county town). Live at the Strand is certainly an unusual album to review on these pages since by no means could it be described as an Irish traditional album and the foursome only partially draw upon Irish music as part of its vast swathe of influences. Indeed the term ‘world music’ might have been invented simply to describe the mélange of stimuli which galvanise No Crows, ranging from the Hot Club de Paris, to Portugal, Finland, Moldova, South America, Brittany, and the film work of Ennio Morricone. Indeed, there are only two Irish traditional tunes on the entire album, Continental Reel and The Mountain Reel (and both of these are given the idiosyncratic No Crows treatment), though a couple of others, Liz Carroll’s Reel Beatrice and Simon Jeffes’ Tune for a Found Harmonium, are pretty well known.
The band itself comprises long-time Dervish associate Felip Carbonell on guitar (often pulsating and exhibiting a multiplicity of chordal and picked effects), Anna Houston on cello and mandolin (the latter admirably plucked on Sweet Georgia Brown), the bedrock double bass of Eddie Lee and, finally, the band’s most famous member, fiddler Steve Wickham of The Waterboys.
Some of the music here is exquisite in its intensity – a gorgeously evocative Finnish Waltz or Makh Tsu Di Eygelekh, a dolorous tune composed by a Jewish inmate of a German concentration camp – but this is also a band that knows how to swing as the Anna Houston-composed Rock the Gondola amply exhibits. However, the standout track is the closing Dimecres de Mati/Finn’s Waltz (both tunes written by Felip), a tremendous tour de force which encompasses intricate Spanish guitar work, resonant bass and swirling fiddle and cello.
If No Crows lived in London, they’d be famous by now. Help put them on the musical map by purchasing this splendid album.
© Geoff Wallis, Irish Music Review, July 2007
At the Strand Live Whirling Discs ****
The melting pot that is No Crows borrows from the cosmopolitanism of the Penguin Cafe Orchestra and Loyko’s innovations (with just a tincture of the freewheeling of Django Reinhart) for their debut. Sligo-based, and populated by Mallorcan guitarist Felip Carbonell, cellist Anna Houston, double bassist Eddie Lee and Waterboys lynchpin Steve Wickham on fiddle, No Crows tread a jagged-edged and picaresque pathway through a repertoire pinched from across eastern and southern Europe, alighting on Sharon Shannon’s Portuguese adoptee, Corridinho, and making it their own. They achieve a remarkably orchestral sound on Szhôck, a slow waltz of puzzling parentage (either Romanian or Bulgarian). What could so easily have been magpie music for those with Attention Deficit Disorder is reined in tight by the quartet’s. Swing rarely felt this good. www.rmgchart.ie
© Siobhán Long, The Irish Times, Feb 2007
At The Strand: Live (Crows Records/Whirling Discs)
If you’ve been wondering whatever became of fiddler Steve Wickham since his raggle-taggle days with the Waterboys, wonder no more. He’s teamed up with three terrific Sligo-based musicians — guitarist Felip Carbonell, double bass player Eddie Lee, and Anna Houston on cello and mandolin — to form the band NoCrows.
They’ve just released their debut album, recorded live in September 2006 at the Strand Bar in Strandhill, Co. Sligo, and it’s a doozy. There are some lovely original tunes, notably Houston’s Rock The Gondola and the superb Carbonell compositions that close the CD, Dimecres De Mati/Finn’s Waltz.
© Sarah McQuaid, Evening Herald, Dec 2006