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A stunner to open this month’s reviews. It is entitled, Classic Celtic Music and it is from Smithsonian Folkways. What a historically important and entertaining compendium this is. As you would expect, anything from Smithsonian has a booklet with it that is worth the price of the CD alone. The history, scholarship, and insights to the artists in these 23 cuts of magic are totally enthralling. This is the best of it. A quick look at the artists tells you what we are dealing with, covering a wide sweep of the music. It begins with one of our favorites today, Kevin Burke. Oh, everybody is here! We go back to the wonderful sean nos singer, Joe Heaney, travelling through the likes of Sarah Makem, Willie Clancy, Maggie Berry, and Willie Taylor. Chicago hero Johnny McGreevy checks in, along with the unexcelled Quebecois fiddle player, Jean Carignan. There are no words. We find ourselves listening to it again and again. This will surely be an Award-winner this year here, and is one for the future. If you love Celtic music, or you have a relative or friend who does, the matter is not to be discussed. This is the history of God’s music and you can hold it in your hands, your ears, and your heart. What an achievement! Thank you Smithsonian Folkways.
Next out is La Bottine Souriante with their new creation, Appellation D’Origine Controlee. It is 12 cuts, and we love it. It is on the Borealis label, the same one that Laura Smith’s brilliant new Everything Is Moving album is on. Borealis is to Canada as Greentrax is to Scotland. The big dog on the block when it comes to acoustic, folk, and tasty music. We first saw La Bottine about 30 years ago at the Old Town School of Folk Music, back in the day when it was located on Armitage Avenue. There have been, of course, personnel changes along the way. While we miss Yves Lambert and Andre Marchand, the music being put out is still first-rate and we love it. Our favorite on the CD is Reel A’Roland.
Portraits, by Niamh Dunne is just released. She is the singer with Beoga. If you have seen them in one of their many festival or concert appearances, you have seen Niamh. We were made aware of this CD by our great friend, Alan O’Leary at Copperplate Distribution in London. It is a lovely bit of business. There are 11 cuts on it and she is joined by a wonderful selection of side musicians ranging from the superb Caitriona McKay on harp, and of our favorites, Cathal Hayden on fiddle. Lunasa co-founder Trevor Hutchinson on bass, and Sean Og Graham on guitars and lots of other instruments, add to a musically delightful album. These things always rise and fall on whether or not you like the singer, regardless of who accompanies her. We have always admired Niamh’s voice. She is a close friend to former female vocalist of the year here, Shauna Mullin. While Shauna is inexplicably inactive for the last couple of years, Niamh is still out there cooking. Like Shauna, she is a graduate of the Limerick University Irish music program, and that background shows. Great stuff.
The last is the latest from the Celtic Fiddle Festival called, Live in Brittany. As in the past, the aforementioned Kevin Burke, Andre Brunet, and Christian Lemaitre are joined by Nicolas Quemener on guitar. The idea of a live album is that it is far more efficiently and cheaply made, and gives the group new product to sell on tour. Kevin was in a group that fell victim to the tour album syndrome with Patrick Street. The sound on this is not what it could be because it is live. There is only so much you can do “live” , but the playing is impeccable. I mean, the engineering and production is excellent. But…it is live. It was recorded at the group’s 20th anniversary concert on Kevin’s labe, Loftus. We are president of the Kevin Burke Fan Club. If he is on it, it is good. And this is really wonderful. We also see that old pal, Ruby Hoy is handling the group’s US bookings. The whole thing was recorded in January of this year in the town of Guemene-sur-Scorff. There are 12 cuts and they are all great. You should have it. It is attractively packaged and the notes on the tunes are wonderful. We love,love it!
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