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Bottom of the Punch Bowl Liner Notes

Andra Bohnet and Tom Morley, cofounders of the Celtic/World music band Mithril, return to their Celtic roots in more ways than one with this new release, Bottom of the Punch Bowl. Their seventh album is most unique of all the Mithril projects with an intoxicating mix of musical spirits from Ireland, Scotland and the Shetland Islands, the Isle of Man and Sweden, played on flutes, whistles, Celtic harp, Scottish smallpipes, fiddle, guitar and the Swedish nyckelharpa.

The album features Tom and Andra’s arrangements of “Celtic Baroque” compositions from the 1700s by Turlough O’Carolan, Neil Gow and James Oswald in intimate settings. “The timeless melodies from these composers were some of the first to catch our attention years ago,” Andra said. “Tom and I are both classically trained; we’re symphony performers and also have a chamber ensemble, the Silverwood Quartet. So exploring the intersection between Celtic and classical music is great fun for us.“

While the full Mithril band is alive and well, this new CD returns to the duo format featured on the first Mithril CD, Banish Misfortune, released in 2003. “This feels like we’ve come full circle back to where we started in Celtic music, with Andra and I playing almost every instrument on the tunes,” Tom said. “But with Bottom of the Punch Bowl, we also get to explore the wider range of Celtic and World music; this album includes a set of Swedish traditional tunes, a tribute to the Bothy Band, and a multilayered arrangement of Scottish music featured in the soundtrack to Outlander, one of the most popular current cable series, which is bringing the Scottish culture and music of the 1700s to the attention of a whole new audience.”

And as you can expect with any Mithril project, there are some surprises on Bottom of the Punch Bowl. Mobile Symphony principal cellist Barbara Gabriel adds some beautiful bass lines, Ohio-based composer Bryan Joyce is featured on harpsichord on a classic Irish reel, and bodhrán player Andy Kruspe of Huntsville (a part-time member of Mithril) adds his rhythmic flair..

Of course the addition of Swedish nyckelharpa will be a surprise to many listeners as well. “I fell in love with the instrument when I first heard it more than ten years ago on an album by the Swedish band, Vasën. I didn’t even know what it was at the time, but I was intrigued, and I knew I wanted to learn more about it.”

But finding a nyckleharpa or even anyone familiar with the instrument was next to impossible on the Alabama Gulf Coast. “Then, a couple of years ago, Mithril played in Eau Claire, Wisconsin, and through a series of coincidences, I met Earl Holzman, one of the finest nyckelharpa makers in the U.S., and I finally got to play the instrument, and then have him make one for me. I was hooked on its haunting sound and on the challenge it presented to this fiddle player, both in learning to play it and in incorporating it into our music. Fortunately, my band mates were accommodating, and now it’s become a part of the Mithril mix!”