It’s somewhat surprising that there isn’t more crossover between Eastern European and Scottish folk music in our multi-nationed Scotland of 2017. Edinburgh’s Dallahan are excelling at capturing this cultural mash, mixing Hungarian, Romanian and Balkan traditional music with Scottish and Irish folk. Tonight they’ve ventured to the north east for their first performance in Aberdeen, as part of the Other Music Weekend’s lineup of folk workshops and concerts.
The Chosen and the True gives an excellent example of the crossover that’s in store for the evening. A traditional Transylvanian folk song known as Volt Nékem Szeretöm is reworked in English and set to a Celtic ballad, beautifully sung by Irish vocalist and guitarist Jack Badcock, who describes the horrors of famine ravaging a community.
Badcock and his Scottish pal Ciarán Ryan (fiddle, mandolin and banjo) busked and performed their way around Edinburgh’s rich folk scene before forming Dallahan with Hungarian fiddle player Jani Lang in 2013. Since then they’ve gained a following here and abroad, and were most recently shortlisted for Album of the Year at the Scots Trad Music Awards.
The years Badcock and Ryan have spent playing together is evident in When The Day is On The Turn, opening the song with a funked up guitar and banjo duel before introducing the other members of the group. Logan from the band’s 2016 album Matter of Time is another reworking of a traditional tune, this time with roots in Robbie Burns’ oeuvre. Andrew Waite’s cheeky and accelerated accordion is exemplary on this track.
Lang then introduces a set of bluegrass inspired reels called The Burger Man, adding another string to the band’s international bow. He describes how he once lived in Aberdeen, earning a buck selling burgers to the folk of the city’s industrial estates, becoming somewhat of an Aberdeen celebrity known as the “Burger Man”.
The most interesting mash up of the set is heard in Pierre’s, which begins as a traditional Romanian tune led by Lang’s fiddle, which then seamlessly melds with an unmistakable Scottish reel. The way in which these come together transports you from Bucharest to Auld Reekie in an instant, blisteringly crossing back and forth between the two countries for the remainder of the song. This is brave and inventive folk music, blending styles that traditionally don’t stray too far from their own worlds.