Cotters Bequest is a six-piece band from South Australia, led
by multi-instrumentalist and composer Gavin O'Loghlen. (Cotters
were landless agricultural laborers who suffered under the absentee
landlords of Ireland.) O'Loghlen used the heritage of his parents
(and his wife's parents) as the building blocks for these CDs.
The first CD begins in Ireland, with a number of pieces focussed
on the beauty and mystery of the land. It takes landmarks such
as the burren (County Clare) and the rock of Cashel as touchstones.
One of the central sections of the CD is a five-track suite on
the Irish famine, an event which led to the voyage of some of
O'Loghlen's ancestors to Australia. Sung in Gaelic and English,
the songs include spiritual overtones ("Gallorus Oratory"),
rousing sentiment ("And the Donkeys Inherit the Earth")
and a gentle lament ("Eviction 1849").
In the second CD O'Loghlen looks to the lands of his wife's origins,
which include England, Wales, Cornwall and the Isle of Man. As
in the previous CD, many of the tracks are inspired by landmarks
such as Hadrian's Wall, St. Michael's Mount (in Cornwall), Silbury
Hill and Stonehenge. This makes the CD a form of musical archaeology,
excavating these sites for their keys to the celtic spirit. The
songs are performed in English, Cornish and Manx Gaelic. All material,
on both CDs, is written by O'Loghlen (with some assistance on
The band displays a remarkable linguistic diversity, as well as
proficiency on a wide range of instruments such as whistles, fiddles,
guitars, accordion, percussion, keyboards, pipes and cello. The
material includes a fair amount of Clannad-like atmospheric settings,
but also other tracks with worldbeat elements. A third album in
the trilogy is planned, this time to focus on what happened to
the Celts after they ended up in Australia.
To pull off a totally original set of CDs is a tough task. Traditional
music has such a storehouse of fine tunes and songs that one person
cannot hope to consistently write up to this exacting standard.
Nevertheless, these two CDs are an impressive collection of celtic-inspired
material, with some definite high points.