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Something old. Something new. These four treats sure ring true. Valentine’s Day rhyming over.

This month, we have four, one older, three new. Here is something really new, different, and wonderful. Kyle Alden out of California, has released a terrific album. Highly creative. Beautifully done. Songs from Yeats’ Bee-loud Glade. What Kyle has done is taken W.B. Yeats’ poetry and set it to music. This is risky. As is any good, creative effort. There are 13 selections beautifully put together. Kyle wrote the music. Some of these succeed more than others, but the weakest of the 13 is terrific. The best are magic. What this all hinges on is if you like Kyle Alden’s voice (you will--reminds us of the great Minnesota folk singer, Pat Donohoe). Everyone will have their own taste as to which tempo, tune, and arrangements meet their individual fancy. There is a lot here to love. Any album like this can be dangerous. W.B. Yeats is such an iconic god in the Irish pantheon of writers that some people will disagree with the project ever being done in the first place. How dare you take Yeats’ poetry and set it to music!!! This opinion is stupid. No one more than Yeats would appreciate an artistic endeavor of such soul and depth. Nice one, Kyle. Keep ‘em coming.

Next is a less successful outing from Irish super trad group, Altan. Gleann Nimhe, The Poison Glen. How many albums is this for Altan? Who knows? This is all getting a bit old---like Phil Coulter albums. Okay. It is great music. That should be enough. But, after 25 plus years being together, we should be offered something new. Their last outing with RTE Orchestra gave such hope. But, now. Here we are. You Altan fans may well say, that the point of traditional music is that it IS the same. Well, true. But, that is YOUR taste. Not everyone’s. In the decades since Altan formed there have been so many fab and creative acts that have come along, from Flook to Cathie Ryan to David Munnelly. Hundreds. Literally. We have heard most of them. Their musicians every bit as good as those in Altan—maybe better, depending on your taste. So, the nasty Phil Coulter album reference goes like this. I have always said that I see why anyone would buy a Phil Coulter album. Lovely production. Very tranquil. Nice background music. The real question is—why would anyone ever buy a second Phil Coulter album? Everyone bows down in front of the name, “Altan”. They won every Irish Music Magazine Readers Poll for years. But, you see, that is because you are supposed to love Altan. It is the “hip” thing to do. It is not a screwy position to hold. But, it is all the same, now. If your response is that is a good thing and the way it should be, fine. If your position is that it has all gotten boring, stale and predictable—come sit by us. We’ll buy you a pint. Heads or tails. Your choice. We’ve made ours.

The regular reader of this column knows that Norah Rendell is our current Female Vocalist of the Year. Her brilliant work with Outside Track earned her the honor in a walk. We discovered another magical “Rendell” from five years ago. She recorded it with husband, Brian Miller. In some ways, this is our favorite Rendell so far. Wait There Pretty One shows a brilliant musical technique combination of the best of the Irish traditional approach and Norah’s stunning, purely American voice. We would guess from hearing this album that Norah has trimmed her sales somewhat in order to blend more perfectly with Outside Track. This is as it should be. But here is Norah in beautiful duet work with Brian and the whole thing is special, indeed. It is just as satisfying to discover a fab album that has been out for some time as it is to get your hands on something brand new, like Kyle Alden’s piece of brilliance on Yeats. So be it with Norah. She is really something, and this album goes a long way to proving that she always has been. More!

Our last piece of business is also very special, indeed. It is The Language of the Gael by Grainne Holland. Next year’s Musician of the Year, Brendan Mulholland, had Grainne send us this album. Find it online! It also uses the Gaelic title, Teanga Na nGael. Most of these songs are in Gaelic. The deal is the voice. Grainne is one of those northern Irish female singers who could sing anything. Maranna McCloskey, Donegal’s Shauna Mullin, Oonagh Derby and many others come to mind. First, and most importantly, these are real women singing. God save us from thin, reedy, nasal , warbly sopranos who think sean nos or Irish music has to be sung in a weak voice with no vibrato through their noses. Then, along come women like Grainne who cut the crapola. This is a wonderful singer with a unique voice. She will be around a long, long time. And, like so many of today’s best young artists, we can’t wait to watch this young woman and where she goes in her career. All of these singers, in the final analysis, come down to whether or not you love their voices. We love their voices. Go Grainne!

We hope you are listening to our weekly radio program, Ireland Tonight. Co-host Maryann Keifer, Producer, Imelda Bhroga and I bring you the best of real Irish music, the traditional stuff, every Monday night from 8-9 on WDCB 90.9fm, Chicago time! You will get it on www.wdcb.org. You will have a ball, and with big enough ratings, we can demand more and more money from the station management. Also, check us out at our web page, Ireland Tonight and on Facebook, under the same name!

Views: 379

Tags: Altan., Bee-loud Glade, Gleann Nimhe, Kyle Alden, Norah Rendell, The Poison Glen

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Comment by mrbaxteria on March 11, 2012 at 6:10

Wow Bill is really getting more and more well known. This is a great post. 

Comment by Imelda on March 10, 2012 at 12:19
Hey, friends, be sure to tune in to Bill's new broadcast "Bill and Imelda Live--2 Yanks from Chicago" on Sunday at 6pm Irish here on LiveIreland radio! Funny accents---maybe. Great music---for sure!
; )

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