The launch of Old Hannah’s new EP Iron & Wood was always going to be a special affair. And those of us Sligo fans lucky enough to have tickets to the gig at The Model knew we were in for a treat when the enthusiastic reports started pouring in from the previous night’s Dublin launch at The Button Factory.
With their first EP, Irish Boys garnering critical acclaim from some of the biggest names in national media, hailed as “a sublime band” by the Irish Times and generally recognised as one of the best things, musically, to come out of Sligo in the past decade, these natives had a lot to live up to this time around.
Of course, they broke all their own brilliant boundaries and smashed through the expectations of the exultant home crowd on Saturday night at The Model. A packed house still made for an intimate and transfixed audience with a very much swollen-ranks version of Old Hannah taking to the stage. Lucie, Luke, Leo and Anthony were joined by several special guest musicians onstage, the addition of percussion, strings, keys and brass bringing depth and power to their already hauntingly beautiful sound, and complementing the new tracks perfectly.
On the EP, the group have teamed up with music maestros Steve Wickham and Rian Trench, to produce an effort already being declared as “stepping up another level” and “a much more expansive sound”, while still maintaining their unique blend of stunning four part harmonies, lyrical storytelling and exceptional skill on a plethora of instruments.
On the night, songs from the original EP were mixed in with new, along with some gloriously arranged covers and even a captivating a cappella performance by Luke Mercer during the encore which swept the entire Black Box audience into a cosy front room, beside the fire, rapt and hanging on his every nuance.
Other high points of the evening included the incredibly affecting Oh My Love, a very special track from the new EP, as well as the deceptively catchy and sophisticated single from it, West. Themes of love and longing, journeying and the sea abounded, with a seriously impressive amount of atmosphere created with sound alone. I swear, the air was salty and the waves were rocking the audience at one point as Old Hannah took us on one of their seafaring adventures…
The beauty of this band is that they make rootsy folk music sexy and current, while keeping it absolutely pure and perfect. There’s fun and cheek abounding, but a seriousness and respect which oozes out of their sound and their presence and reflects back at them from enraptured fans of all ages and tastes.
Buy this EP. Buy the last EP, too, while you’re at it. And for goodness sake, next time Old Hannah play a gig in Sligo, be there. It’s like a Michelin star musical experience, with added sex appeal.