“A finer gift hasn’t come from France since the Statue of Liberty was delivered,” said Irish American News about Doolin’s self-titled 2016 Compass Records debut.
After three years of breakout touring at some of the biggest roots festivals in the United States and Canada, and another three years locked out of the live performance world they have so ambitiously cultivated, Doolin’, France’s premiere practitioners of Irish and Celtic music, return in early 2023 with a new album entitled CIRCUS BOY.
Recorded in part in the US (Chicago, Kansas City and Pittsburgh) during their 2019 tour, the album was completed at the legendary Studio Ferber in Paris, France, under the direction of two legendary producers, Olivier Lude and Patrice Renson, both of whom have collaborated with some of the biggest names in French music.
While their 2016 album drew its inspiration from the fusion of traditional Irish music, French chanson, and American roots music, CIRCUS BOY is resolutely more adventurous, as evidenced by their original compositions (“Circus Boy”, “When I’m Gone”, “A Place Where We Belong”), as well as by the added punch and sonic elements that were brought to the project by producers Lude and Renson.
Wilfried Besse’s vocals are supported as usual by the driving rhythm section of Josselin Fournel (percussion), Sébastien Saunié (bass) and Nicolas Besse (guitars), and the trad-Irish influence remains evidenced through the whistles of Jacob Fournel, the bodhran of his brother, Josselin, and the nimble accordion playing of Nicolas’ brother, Wilfried. But CIRCUS BOY represents a more powerful and bigger musical vision for the band, made possible by the introduction of piano, drums, and brass as new sonic elements. That said, the Irish music tradition is not complete without the presence of a fiddle or two, and on CIRCUS BOY Doolin’ includes three of the best European fiddlers of the genre: Niahm Gallagher, Niall Murphy, and Guilhem Cavaillé, himself a founding member of the band.
CIRCUS BOY is at its core an exploration of the recurring feelings and themes experienced during the group’s US tours: the friendship and solidarity on the road (“Circus Boy”), the personal and artistic encounters gained through extensive touring, and the exploration of a new country with a dizzying musical culture. It is also the acknowledgement of a sometimes difficult world (“Top Of The Mountain”), as well as the recent challenging times and the topics we’ve all been forced to reckon with; to this Doolin’ have included a necessary and heartfelt tribute to women (“Man Smart, Woman Smarter”). On the latter — a Calypso standard first brought to mainstream attention by Harry Belafonte, and later by Robert Palmer — they are joined by the female triumvirate of the Diver sisters, aka The Screaming Orphans and Ashley Davis (Lunasa, The Chieftains) on backing vocals, and Niahm Gallagher (Lord Of The Dance) on violin.
CIRCUS BOY is simultaneously Doolin’s declaration of love for their region of France (in particular their hometown of Toulouse [“L’Amour Sorcier”]), for those at home who miss them when they are away (“When I’m Gone”, “A Place Where We Belong”), and for their many friends and newfound fans (“Thank You”).
Powerful, full of emotion, and eminently appealing, Doolin’ is poised to take their career to the next level with the release of CIRCUS BOY.