Album Remarks & Appraisals:
"Whether playing in a band [like Solas], as an accompanist [as with Liz Carroll], or as a solo performer, John Doyle has a magical touch, always providing exactly what is needed: the right progression, a nimble melody, a delicate harmony line; a dream guitarist." - Irish Edition. John Doyle is one of the most influential and important musicians in Irish music today. He was a founding member of Irish American supergroup Solas in the 1990s and recently served as band leader for the Joan Baez band. As a guitarist, he is unparalleled for his harmonic and rhythmic genius. His instrumental prowess contributed to his 2010 GRAMMY nomination for Best Traditional World Music album for his collaboration with fiddler Liz Carroll on Double Play. In recent years Doyle has emerged as an important singer of Irish music as well; his 2010 collaboration, Exiles Return, with Karan Casey won him critical acclaim and solidified his reputation as a world class interpreter of traditional songs. On SHADOW AND LIGHT, his 2nd solo effort and the follow up to Wayward Son (2005), Doyle establishes himself as a masterful composer as well. 10 of the album's 11 tracks were all written by Doyle and include an engaging and mesmerizing combination of songs and tunes. Notable tracks include the Civil War inspired "Clear the Way", which tells the story of the Irish Americans who served, "Liberty's Sweet Shore" about Irish immigration to the US, and the blockbuster set of tunes entitled "Donald Ward's" which features an otherworldly performance from guest fiddler Stuart Duncan. Through it all, Doyle's tenor vocals and driving guitar playing are front and center, establishing him as a multi-faceted talent in Irish music with a album that is destined to become a classic in the genre.
Raised in the Irish tradition, it's not something that guitarist and singer John Doyle can easily leave behind -- nor does he want to. The vast majority of the pieces here might be original compositions, but in their own way every one is tethered to Ireland, even "Clear the Way," set during the Civil War. You can hear Ireland in the inflections and the chord changes, and in the two instrumentals with their lulling melodies. There's a touch of country here and there -- hardly surprising, since country and Celtic are closely linked and some of this album was recorded in Nashville. The vast majority of the disc is given to songs, and it's apparent that Doyle has been busy, not just writing but growing in stature. So, alongside "Little Sparrow," written for his daughter, there's the pure ache of "Liberty's Sweet Shore" and the family history of "The Arabic," featuring just Doyle's voice and guitar, a song that plays to his strengths and also shows some of his remarkable instrumental technique. "Wheel of Fortune" is a song that begs to be covered by a traditional singer. The surprise comes with the atmospheric "Selkie," which sees Doyle switch to electric for something more mystical that seems a little closer to Mark Knopfler territory. He's a wonderful musician and his career continues to grow. ~ Chris Nickson