The Irish version of this series diverts around many of the biggest names in Irish music, but still brings an interesting selection of 20 songs and tunes from many, very competent musicians who live outside the brightest spotlights, but definitely deserve your notice. The CD features excellent cuts from some of my favorites including tin whistle players extraordinaire Brian Hughes and Seán Ryan, Cherish the Ladies, Dé Danaan, fiddler Paddy Glacknin, Déanta, Jackie Daly, singer Seán Tyrell, and Craobh Rua. The highlight for me was uillean piper Declan Masterson's absolutely ripping an amazing set of reels. Very good liner notes.
I usually avoid "various artists" CD's due to mediocre talent being involved. In consideration of Ireland, it must be said that there is a wealth of real talent that is never recognized outside of Ireland. Many musicians are content to simply impress their friends with local recordings or pub performances. While I can't rank this CD with specific artist CD's, this is still a strong example of what the U.S. would declare as "undiscovered" talent. If this is your introduction to traditional Irish music, this is a good start. Please see my other reviews of "undiscovered" groups such as Nomos and Arcady. If you get serious about traditional, accoustic Irish Music, the Dervish "Live in Palma" or "Decade" albums are required listening and must have's for any collection.
I have mentioned in this space more times than one is reasonably allowed that in my youth in the early 1960's I listened to a local folk music radio program on Sunday nights. That program played, along with highlighting the then current up and coming folk revivalists like Bob Dylan and Dave Van Ronk, much American traditional music including things like the "Child Ballads". In short, music derived from parts of the "British" homeland. What I have not previously mentioned is that directly after that program I used to listen on that same radio station to the "Irish National Hour", a show devoted to all the old more traditional and unknown Irish ballads and songs. And, by the way, attempted to instill a respect for Irish culture, Irish heritage and the Irish struggle against the "bloody" British. (That struggle continues in one form or another today but that is a subject for another time.) Of course, today when every `progressive' radio station (or other technological format) has its obligatory "Keltic Twilight" programs we are inundated with music from the old country and this is no big deal but in those days it was another question.
All of this is by way of reviewing the music of the Irish Diaspora. Our Irish forebears had the `distinct' opportunity of following the British flag wherever it went, under one set of terms or another. And remember in those days the sun never set on that British Empire. So there are plenty of far-flung traditions to talk about. But, first comes the old country. Chocky Ar La (roughly translated- "Our Day Will Come")
The Rough Guide: Irish Folk, various artists, World Music Network, 1999
Because English domination and occupation of Ireland for many centuries meant that the lingua franca of commerce and administration was English the rich history of traditional Irish music in Gaelic (Irish) was placed under the radar. For most of the English occupation it was a serious criminal offense to speak Gaelic (to speak nothing of speaking "Irish" by an occasional rebellion). The reels, the jigs, the lonesome ballads, the songs of love and redemption in the old language were thus either Anglicized like in the rest of the British Isles or existed in a subterranean culture away from the cities and the snooping eyes and ears of the bloody occupiers.
The CD under review represents a compilation of both types of musical expression. I would add here that this CD was produced as part of a series of world-wide material to expand our knowledge of roots music beyond the `pop' tunes for holiday occasions. These tracks are not the stuff of St Patty's Day celebration, although your grandmother (or great-grandmother) may have sung some of them, sweet and low, when you were a child. The simple fiddle, as in many Western agrarian cultures, played a central role in forming the base line of such music as reeds and jigs that were the festivities that brought the folk together after a hard week's work.
That instrument and those musical expressions are well represented here in Brian Hughes' medley, Paddy Glackin's and The Tulla Ceili (party) Band's as well. The Gaelic traditional singing (and contests associated with such efforts, a separate subject which when I have time I will discuss later) is well represented here by Padraigin Ni Uallachain on "A Bhean Udai Thall" and Aine Ui Cheallaigh on "Seoladh Na nGgamhna". Damn, just listing this stuff brings back strong memories of my grandmother humming these old tunes while working around her house.
THE PREVIOUS REVIEWS ARE FROM THE FIRST EDITION, RELEASED IN 1999
World Music Network, 2009, RGNET 1226, 67 minutes Bonus CD: Karan Casey "Ships in the Forest" (2008) - 46 minutes This is the second edition from the Rough Guide to Irish Folk. Digipack, with a informative booklet in English, French and Spanish. Disc features music and travel text from Rough Guides. There are many different styles from Irish music: lovely ballads by Patrick Street - "The Rich Irish Lady" (led by Andy Irvine on top form), Seamie O'Dowd - "Crooked Jack" and Robbie O'Connell - "The Flower of Kilkenny". There are songs in gaelic: "Beauty Deas An Oileáin" sung by Julie Fowlis, "Pota Mór Fataí" sung by Róisín Elsafty and "Jimmy Mó Mhíle Stór" sung by Cara Dillon. There are extraordinaire jigs and reels, played with passion and beauty, by wonderful musicians like Sharon Shannon (accordion), Catherine McEvoy (flute), Frankie Gavin (fiddle), Arty McGlynn and Graham Dunne (guitar). Two highlights: the instrumental "Tripin'" with Martin Tourish (piano accordion) and Luke Ward (bouzouki) from the album CLAN RANNALD (2005) and the song "St Patrick Was A Gentleman" by the group Rattle The Boards from the album THE PARISH PLATFORM (2008), featuring guest vocalist comedian John Kenny. Don't miss the party.
An anthology which attempts to introduce a listener to Irish music but fails to include The Chieftains, is akin to discussing Irish literature and failing to mention James Joyce. Most of these tracks are the new-age approach to celtic music which are not traditional. Irish music is my favourite music of all, and here are my recommendations:
Dolores Keane with John Faulkner - Sail Og Rua (simple, gorgeous minor-celtic harmonies that send shivers down your spine) Dolores Keane - A Farewell to Erin (fantastic) The Chieftains - Anything, start with Best Of or Greatest Hits The Dubliners - The Best Of (my 2-cd set came from Holland through Amazon.com and it's fantastic The Johnstons - Barley Corn (gorgeous husky female voices, great fiddle & guitar playing) The Johnstons - Bitter Green (their version of Lord Thomas and Fair Ellender, in 3-part harmony, is one of the most haunting things I've ever heard) Happy listening - slainte!