Linley Hamilton – Ginger’s Hollow
(Whirlwind Recordings WR4808, released 26 May. Review by Bruce Lindsay)
For the first eight bars of ‘Shinebox,’ the opening track on Ginger’s Hollow, the rhythm section – pianist Cian Boylan and American duo bassist Mark Egan and drummer Adam Nussbaum – have the stage to themselves. They make the most of it, laying down a funky, feel-good groove that sets the mood for much of the rest of this enjoyable, beautifully performed album from a quintet led by Irish trumpeter Linley Hamilton.
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The quintet, completed by saxophonist Derek ‘Doc’ O’Connor, is the same band that recorded Hamilton’s previous album, 2020’s For the Record. This latest album was recorded in May 2022 at Dublin’s Camden Recording Studios, engineered by Conor Brady and produced by Boylan. The sound from all five players is crisp and clear, the musicians’ experience shines through and there’s a clear sense coming from the music that this is a group that loves to play together.
The tunes on Ginger’s Hollow are credited to Hamilton and/or Boylan, but there’s no information on the sleeve as to who wrote what. However, the press release does offer some insight, crediting Boylan with ‘Sunday Morning,’ ‘Jason’s Dream’ and ‘Stonky’ and Hamilton with ‘Lost in the Crowd’; presumably the remainder are joint compositions. The first three tunes – ‘Shinebox,’ ‘Sunday Morning’ and ‘Stonky’ – are all funky, danceable, numbers. ‘Stonky’ has a particularly irresistible hook, played in unison by Hamilton and O’Connor. It grabs your attention in seconds then refuses to leave your head for days.
‘Ginger’s Hollow’ changes the mood, unsurprisingly, given that it’s a tribute to a beloved but now-deceased farm cat. It’s a smoother, more lyrical number than its predecessors, with Boylan’s Fender Rhodes adding a sparkle to its beautiful but rather downbeat melody. ‘Place at the Ace’ is a silky, stylish tune driven by Nussbaum’s understated percussion and offering Hamilton and O’Connor time to stretch out on their solos.
It’s followed by another slow number, the lovely ‘Jason’s Dream.’ The tune was written by Boylan to commemorate a family loss. The band play sympathetically and despite its subject matter the performance, especially O’Connor’s saxophone solo, is uplifting. Hamilton says that he wrote ‘Lost in the Crowd’ to “introduce some angularity.” If that makes it sound like a technical exercise, never fear, for it’s another lovely tune, featuring Egan on an all-too-brief bass guitar solo. The album ends, as it began, in an upbeat mood with the Brazilian-flavoured ‘Watch Those Eyes.’
Hamilton, a broadcaster and lecturer as well as a bandleader, has been a key figure on the Irish scene for many years and has played with Van Morrison, The Commitments, Jacqui Dankworth and Paul Brady among many. Previously a resident of Belfast, he and his wife now live in rural County Down at Magy’s Farm, which they run as a space for musicians to play, practice and develop. It seems like a diverse and heavy workload, but thankfully amongst it all Hamilton still finds time to create albums as good as Ginger’s Hollow.
Release date is 26 May 2023