Éamonn Coyne – Storymap

What is a storymap? It sounds very philosophical imprinted upon an album cover, but… how (and why) would you “map” stories?

The cartographers in question are Kris Drever, guitarist, mandolin player and vocalist, usually spied as part of the fine trio Lau; and banjoist and tenor guitarist Éamonn Coyne. Two highly talented individuals whose spirited playing on this, their second album collaboration, is completely infectious.

In drawing their storymap, Coyne and Drever bring together songs, jigs, reels and marches, often melding two or more together. These portmanteau pieces are then simply but sensitively arranged, set around a common feeling, to construct nine mini-dramas for the ears.

This works especially well on Marches and Reels: the beginning of this track is a Scottish march, which then leads into an Irish one, before culminating in two frenzied reels. The tumult is such that it actually gets a bit scary; especially since it then leads into the ambitious Goat Walk.

This is another mélange, starting with the elegiac Mickey Finn’s Air, then Goat Walk itself (a track penned by Drever), and concluding with the bombastic American civil war tune, Abe’s Retreat.

The closing track, Teddy Bear’s Picnic Jigs, is another success: a blissful dance, all kicked up dirt and hair-ribbons flying in the wind.

Although the bulk of Storymap is instrumental, allowing the tales of terror, despair and joy to form in the listener’s mind, Drever does sing on a few tracks. His voice is powerful and resonant, and less is more. It’s wonderful on May Morning Dew, ringing deeply through the song’s melancholia.

There are also a few guest spots: particularly notable is Simon Bradley’s wonderful frenetic fiddle on Marches and Reels. Eliza Carthy turns up on Farewell to Stromness, joining Drever’s vocals, and the two voices make an effective contrast.

So it seems that a storymap is Coyne and Drever’s way of encouraging the listener to excavate, to discover tales buried deep in the foundations of this music. The arrangements are so clear, and the playing so deft and fluid, it’s a pleasure to have them as guides.

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