Live review from Orkney Folk Festival, 2019

“…the perennially fabulous Poozies, whose current cross-generational line-up maintains their sparkling standard of vivacious, inventive instrumentals, while giving fresh pride of place to Orkney native Sarah McFadyen’s brilliant, blackly comic dialect songwriting, arranged by the four-piece with note-perfect deadpan elegance.”

Sue Wilson, The Scotsman

A selection of quotes for the album ‘Punch’

 “**** ..this is high-tempo, festival-headlining stuff.” 

Tim Woodall, Songlines Magazine

“..strong and seductive.. full of invention.. on song and tuned to perfection.”

Alex Monaghan, Irish Music Magazine

“Punch comes with a variety of different meanings, but all of them have an underlying sense of drive and energy, of vim, verve and sheer pizzazz, as well as being a potent drink made up of various different flavours and spirits that coalesce into something uniquely its own. Pour yourself a glass and feel the oomph.” 

Mike Davies, folkradio.co.uk

“Poozie fans, old and new, are in for a rare treat when the band tour this strong release live. A knockout Punch, indeed.” 

Leuan Evans, celticsounds.net

“..a mischievous mix of musical mayhem, spellbinding showcase instrumentals and probably some frogs legs to boot….unencumbered by conventional folk idioms” 

Jon Bennet, folking.com

“..outstanding originals, virtuoso interpretations and unexpected arrangements take you into uncharted realms … unique spheres that need no labels.” 

Tim Carroll, FolkWords

“..this is the serenade of a rare butterfly in the ring with a will to take on the wind and win. The Poozies return undaunted and full of energy.” Ian D Hall,

Liverpool Sound and Vision

“…another delightfully varied and crafted work by excellent musicians packing punch and catchy charm aplenty.” 

Kevin T Ward, Shire Folk

“…What a mighty sound they make for a four-piece! It’s both bewitching and scary, for there’s also a sinister alchemy at work between the four very different (and self-confessedly off-kilter!) musical personalities – and a keen sense of delicious mischief to boot.” 

Gordon MacLean, An Tobar Arts Centre

“…The Poozies remain one of Scotland’s most distinctive and best loved folk acts, having blazed a trail not only for female musicians but by mixing and matching myriad styles and material, from pop hits to Gaelic songs, Americana ballads to original tunes, gorgeous four-part harmonies to gutsy instrumental attack. “

Sue Wilson, Celtic Connections

“…Alive with dynamic gear changes, tempos, moods and winsome catchiness, often hypnotic in its lure.”

“It takes a distinguished personality to be a Poozie, to able to reconcile the individual style to the distinctive sound that inhabits the soul of one of Scotland’s much loved folk bands, a trait that is hard to come by, one that is hard to muster and ask to be perfect at the same time and yet when it does so, the Punch that the listener feels is warmth, surrounding exquisiteness and pleasure.

Not all punches have to be laced with bitterness, anger or retaliation, in the velvet glove and the rib rattling tune, the Punch is seen as more of an energetic push to the heart, the beat to the soul and the striking away of preconceptions from the area, from the body that craves the knock about style of The Poozies.

With two new additions to the ranks, Sarah McFadyen and Tia Files, there could be the thought that it would take time to bed in what is half a new section to the band, and yet seamless as is possible, The Poozies have the enviable knack of being a group who requires no settling in time, no months and possibly years of hiding away till the moment arises when the music is in ship Poozie shape, it just comes naturally, poised, arguably flawless and ready to go as many rounds as the listener wishes to go. This is not a quick fire brawl, nor the steady and constant thump of new material finding its feet, this is the serenade of a rare butterfly in the ring with a will to take on the wind and win.

Whether in the tracks Aileen, the superb Soaking, Knees of Fire, Wedding Song or the album’s sublime culmination of Easily Led, Mary MacmasterEilidh Shaw, Sarah McFadyenand Tia Files have created something defining, alluring, going beyond the textbook of how to create splendour in the midst of change; a Punch to the senses, a reminder of the building blocks of Folk and the gravitas of the Gaelic voice, The Poozies return undaunted and full of energy.”

David Kidman, fRoots Magazine

“…What a mighty sound they make for a four-piece! It’s both bewitching and scary, for there’s also a sinister alchemy at work between the four very different (and self-confessedly off-kilter!) musical personalities – and a keen sense of delicious mischief to boot”

Mike Davies, Folk Radio

“Punch is the first album from the all-female Scottish outfit The Poozies to feature new recruits Tia Files and Sarah McFadyen. They join Eilidh Shawe (making three fiddlers) and, the only remaining original,  harpist Mary Macmaster. It’s also the first to spread the balance equally between songs and instrumentals since 2003’s Changed Days Same Roots.

Like its 2015 predecessor, Into The Well, it opens with a  sprightly instrumental, the title-track a six-minute fiddle-driven medley of Shaw’s punning Punch in the Feis, the bass drum thump of Casino, written by Hannu Kelu, and the high kicking traditional Gaelic tune Dubh an Tomaich.

Sung in Gaelic by Macmaster, the first song, Ailein, is another fusion, here of two traditional numbers, Ailein Ailein with its chant-like refrain melding into the suitably Eastern European flavoured Polish instrumental Slingspolska. The instrumental thread continues to be spun with the six-minutes-plus intricate Files-penned fiddle tune Bloodknot which, in turn, and with more bass drum thumping, flows into Liz Carroll’s Form Your Own Circle.

After this you need to unwind and how better than by Soaking (in the Bathtub), a playfully mischievous but dark-veined rhythmically lurching number written and sung in her vivid Orkney accent by McFadyen. The only other number in which the group have input into the writing is Plecthumb, another fiddle dominated instrumental medley, the title of which was penned by Files and which features a woman’s scream mid-way in (presumably her own) before it segues into the bow-scraping traditional Kopanitsa and Niall Vallely’s lively After The Silence.

The first of the four ‘covers’ showcases McFadyen’s banjo work with Jim Sutherland’s Isobel, the song’s narrator fed up with her other half talking about another woman and wondering if she knows about her, the gutsy fiddle solo bridge reflecting her annoyance.

Opening with deep guitar notes and Grapelli-like fiddle, Knees Of Fire is a jazzier instrumental fusion of the Gavin Firth title number tune and Thomas Kinsella’s blazing fiddles stomp The Chase. The best-known name in the non-group writing credits will, however, be that of Anais Mitchell whose celebratory upbeat Wedding Song, off of the Hadestown album. While it is given a leafy summery atmosphere it remains slightly foreboding with the arrangement built around electro harp, fiddle and bass drum.  It all ends, then, on the quiet, relaxed note of Deanie Cox’s whimsically gentle Appalachian-shaded take life as it comes waltzer Easily Led with its softly sung lead, crooning harmonies, acoustic strum and tranquil fiddle solo.

Punch comes with a variety of different meanings, but all of them have an underlying sense of drive and energy, of vim, verve and sheer pizzaz, as well as being a potent drink made up of various different flavours and spirits that coalesce into something uniquely its own. Pour yourself a glass and feel the oomph.”

Jon Bennett, Folking.com

“I was amused by the quote from Eilidh Shaw (fiddle, vocals) who says that the Poozies are probably fortunate that the charge of witchcraft has gone out of fashion; otherwise they’d be in trouble. In Punch there’s certainly a mischievous mix of musical mayhem, spellbinding showcase instrumentals and probably some frogs legs to boot. True to form, The Poozies are unencumbered by conventional folk idioms, slipping and sliding between cool jazz cadences and the more structured strathspeys. Fortunately, boundaries are never pushed too far and the whole thing hangs together beautifully, albeit with a shimmer of post-modern irony. I just loved it when on ‘Plecthumb’ the tune is suddenly punctured by an almighty scream from one of the women!

Looking back, The Poozies were initially the established harp duet of Mary MacMaster and Patsy Seddon (of Sileas) joined by Sally Barker and Karen Tweed. Always an all-female ensemble, they rode the wave of new Scottish music in the 1990s. One shouldn’t forget they also introduced us to Kate Rusby at that time. There have been many personnel changes since, and only MacMaster remains from the original line-up. Fiddles have replaced harps as the predominant sound and there are no fewer than three fiddle players in the current band: Eilidh Shaw, Sarah McFadyen and Tia Files.

The four women keep you on your toes, and there’s never a dull moment. The stomp box and bass drum allow for gear shifts just when they’re needed and the keen rhythmic edginess serves them well in ‘Knees of Fire’ and ‘Bloodknot’. There’s an even spread of songs and tunes, from the frivolous ‘Soaking’ to a traditional Scots Gaelic ‘Ailein, Ailein’, one of my favourites. Their harmonized vocal talents are particularly noticeable on the final alluring track, ‘Easily Led’ which brings the set to a relatively quiet, though indubitably classy, finish.

So much good music is coming out of Scotland these days, a credit to serious recognition and investments made in traditional arts. We shouldn’t take it for granted. Enjoy the renaissance and marvel at just how good these musicians are and how much memorable fun they can pack into nine tracks.”