The first recording from the young St. John's band, The Freels, is a self-titled album featuring a wide variety of instrumental music and songs drawn from the Newfoundland traditional music repertoire. Besides paying homage to legendary west coast fiddlers Rufus Guinchard and Emile Benoit by including a set of tunes from each, they also include a set from Port Kirwan accordion player, Belle Fennelly. The CD is nicely rounded out by the inclusion of songs from songwriters as diverse as Ron Hynes, Pat Byrne and Paul Simon.
Spokesman for The Freels, accordion and concertina player Fergus Brown O’Byrne reveals that that album was partially financed by crowdfunding. “We started by spreading the word on social media,” he said, “and it really took off from there. Local fans of the band got onto it, and before we knew it we were receiving donations from fans in Canada, and as far afield as the US and the UK.”
The band demonstrates a musical maturity that belies the youth of its members. At the time of this recording, the five musicians ranged in age from 18-28, but they had all been playing for many years. The pure and emotive singing voice of Maria Peddle is well supported by clever and sophisticated arrangements that complement virtuoso instrumental playing on the jigs and reels. Besides Brown O’Byrne and Peddle, who also plays fiddle, the band is comprised of Danny Mills on flute, whistle, guitar and vocals; Andrew Fitzgerald, fiddle and vocals; and Anthony Chafe on guitar, accordion and bodhran. The Freels was recorded locally at The Sound Solution, with mixing and mastering by Billy Sutton and Jason Whelan.