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  • Local Ground
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Local Ground


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Audio CD, March 1, 2005
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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com

For their 10th album, the veteran Irish ensemble has gathered 13 traditional and newly composed tunes. These are transformed via singer/fiddler Mairéad ní Mhaonaigh¹s Gaelic-speaking Donegal birthright and gussied up by the group¹s modern yet reassuringly earthy acoustic arrangements. The set list includes several of the jaunty dance tunes that are the soul of Irish music; Is the Big Man Within/Tilly Finn¹s Reel is an especially fine example. But Ní Mhaonaigh¹s fragile, girlish soprano creates many of the album¹s most memorable moments, Adieu My Lovely Nancy and a lullaby, Dun Do Shuil linger in the heart and ear. She and her husband, accordionist Dermot Byrne, own a pub in a small village called Teelin and it must be a great place for musicians to swap songs and tell tales. Indeed, the entire album has home-town warmth to it, a sense of achieved heritage that is at once soothing and invigorating. --Christina Roden

1. Eirigh 's Cuir Ort Do Chuid Eadaigh
2. Tommy Peoples/The Road To Cashel/The Repeal Of The Union/Richie's Reel
3. Is The Big Man Within?/Tilly Finn's Reel
4. Adieu, My Lovely Nancy
5. Bo Mhin Na Toitean/Con McGinley's Highland/Seanamhach Tube Station
6. Amhran Pheadair Bhreathnaigh
7. The Roseville
8. As I Roved Out
9. Sport
10. The Humours Of Castlefin/Nia's Dance/An Duidin
11. The Wind And Rain
12. The Silver Slipper
13. Dun Do Shuil (Close Your Eyes)

Product Details

  • Audio CD (March 1, 2005)
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Label: Narada
  • ASIN: B0007GAE1C
  • Average Customer Review: 4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #24,992 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

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Customer Reviews

4.9 out of 5 stars
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See all 11 customer reviews
All that has changed with the release of this CD, perhaps their best since "Harvest Storm".
B. Niedt
Then there is the solid foundation of Altan music, the excellent bouzouki (deep voiced, large mandolin) playing of Ciaran Curran.
Michael
As the album title implies, Altan have gone back to their roots for this effort, with Donegal music a strong feature.
Peter Grant

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

42 of 45 people found the following review helpful By o dubhthaigh VINE VOICE on March 2, 2005
Format: Audio CD
Absolutely understand that it is not in Altan to turn out a bad record, even if they came perilously close to becoming the baby-boomer Chieftains (venerable, but hardly exciting), what with the tour with the faux-Mairead (to paraphrase Joan Cusack, 'sure you're blond and can play the fiddle, but that doesn't make you Mairead.') and the parade of guests on recent CDs. But it seems rather convincingly that what drove Altan all through the Green Linnet years has resurfaced, resulting in what is the best CD since ISLAND ANGEL. There is a root sensibility to this that always infused the early records but was becoming lost in the move to a big label. What had been authentic was teetering on cliche in the Virgin-Narada releases of the past years. None of that is the case here.
Instead, Mairead seems more in charge of the proceedings than ever and Dermot Byrne has found an urgency to go with his fleet command of the button accordion, kinda like a Belfast flautist I remember from some years back. It was never just the technique, but the fire within. Dermot's playing is quantitatively and qualitatively different and that pushes this band in ways it hasn't been pushed since the 90's. At the risk of committing heresy, the attack on the second set of reels, leading off with "Tommy People's" ( a reel covered on the Ceol Aduaidh CD) packs a dynamic that actually transcends the earlier take from Frankie, Mairead and the inimitable Ciarn Curran. And while we're on the subject of Curran, I haven't heard him this fired up outside of a live set ever, and it is a joy, in fact one of the reel seminal joys of Irish music to hear Ciaran Curran lit up and playing like his life depended on it. The most unsung hero of the Irish bouzouki ever asserts himself, balls forward, and Altan is the better for it.
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26 of 27 people found the following review helpful By B. Niedt on March 28, 2005
Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
Nobody does Irish-traditional better than Altan, though they seemed to have lost some of their edge and authenticity since leaving the marvelous Green Linnet label. All that has changed with the release of this CD, perhaps their best since "Harvest Storm". The joy has returned to their jigs and reels (and nowhere in the genre can you hear tighter ensemble playing), and they will indeed make you dance around the house. They've gone back to some numbers from earlier in their career, like "Tommy Peoples", but they've also brought some "new" ones with unusual time changes. In contrast, their ballads and songs have a deeper ache, thanks to the fragile soprano of fiddler Mairead Ni Mhaonaigh, who seems to get better with each album. It's interesting to reflect on the history of some of the songs here. For instance, the band learned "Adieu, My Lovely Nancy" from an American friend, who learned it from a woman from the Ozarks, who in turn learned it from her Irish-immigrant grandfather. So the song seems to have come full circle. "The Wind and the Rain" is a revelation too: it's a story of a young woman's murder of her sister, and her sister's unusual vengeance. It's been told in several versions, including "The Bonny Swans", popularized not long ago by Loreena McKennitt. And Bob Dylan "borrowed" elements of the lyrics and melody for an early work of his, "Percy's Song". But history aside, there's no question this band is heir apparent to the Chieftains, as they expertly carry Irish Celtic music into the next generation. They found the spark again, and Frankie Kennedy must be smiling down on them.
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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Michael on March 9, 2005
Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
They're back! The lovely Queen Mairead of Irish traditional music is back! She is truly one of the larger than life personalities for her beautific voice, easy smile and laughter, and her whole sense of musical enjoyment. This is a new album, new material and renewed energy. Altan has been with us since the 80's and have been easy to take for granted as Irish traditional music history after a "best of album," a "finest" album and a gap of time. Just when we are ready to bid a fond farewell, they are rejuvenated and back with the inspiration of yesteryear. Mairead's beautiful voice, and spirited fiddle playing, teaming up with her husband, Dermot Byrne playing button accordian, are a grand picture of marital and musical harmony. Ciaran Tourish is back with very spirited lead fiddle. Then there is the solid foundation of Altan music, the excellent bouzouki (deep voiced, large mandolin) playing of Ciaran Curran. He has been one of the real pioneers of this instrument. He teams up with the excellent veteran guitar player, Daithe Sproule. If all lead instruments were muted, this two person team accounting for more than a 60 years of experience between the two of them would be astounding. Jim Higgins is back again on bodhran and provides an extra snap to the faster pieces to get your toes tapping. Taken as a whole, this album repeats a previous Altan formula of playing lively, music and then changing the pace with gorgeous vocals from Mairead. This is a must have for any Irish Traditional Music collection.
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15 of 18 people found the following review helpful By Irish Eyes on March 20, 2005
Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
Well, anyone fanatical enough to be interested in making fine distinctions between Altan's albums surely realizes Harvest Storm and Island Angel were miraculous. It brings to mind -- to my mind, anyway -- Yavanna's lament (she who created the Two Trees of Valinor): "Even for those who are mightiest under Iluvatar there is some work that they may accomplish once, and once only." It doesn't seem right to judge this album less than five stars just because those others were off the end of the scale.

Local Ground is similar to their earlier albums, in contrast to certain of the more recent ones, which were throwing out signs of drifting towards a more contemporary sound, at least in matter of the song selection (which is my chief interest). One of those (which shall remain nameless) was drifting pretty far, and for some reason had a concentration of English songs (some of them being a bit slow and somewhat unmelodic) that obscured the whole Gaelic aura of the thing. Although I might not have noticed this had I not listened to it every day for three years (I told you I was a fanatic).

I'm not sure I agree with the official reviewlet, above, claiming Mairead has a girlish soprano -- whatever that is. This comes across like an offhand and harmless remark by someone who doesn't know any better. A beautiful voice is more like it. I tell you what, sit in the third row sometime; it might happen that she'll sing "Uncle Rat." There is nothing girlish about it. What might be more to the point is that she is a native speaker of Donegal Gaelic, and so she renders the songs therefore with precision and authority (also the English ones).
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