As a self-professed language expert (I’m not), I’ve gone through a lengthy spell where I was deeply fascinated by the Irish language. I never managed to learn a word of Irish because of its notorious difficulty, but I was left with a particular reverence and appreciation for the Irish culture, folklore, and identity, an appreciation that swiftly bubbled to the surface with the first notes of Emily Magner Hurley’s treatment of the old folk song ‘Aililiú na Gamhna’.
Based in the Irish city of Cork, Emily Magner Hurney is a folk artist who is on a quest to bring the old Irish folk tradition to newer generations, and her album Orainn is a collection of pieces doing just that. Listening to Hurley’s work would leave you completely forgetting that Ireland is a perfectly modern country with busy streets and technology, and you’ll be instantly taken away into expansive swathes of countryside populated by wildlife and grazing beasties. Translated to ‘Praise the Calves’, Hurley provides some insight into the possible past lives of the piece, suggesting that the strongly driving rhythms might have been used to prod farm workers in the days of old, and the lyrics also play along this narrative.
Hurley’s treatment is minimal, the vocals, powerful, colorful, and controlled, are the sole player here, and the lush sounds of the magical Irish language cast a stupefying spell over the listener. Emily Magner Hurley truly brought a scene to life. For lovers of Ireland, or of visiting rich folk traditions, Emily Magner Hurley’s work is a must.