St. Patrick's Day Edition
Celtic Women - Various Artists
The world music specialists at Putumayo have been bringing global sounds to the American market for nearly 30-years now and Gaelic music has been one of their favorite genres since the very beginning. Here they present a 10-song compilation featuring female vocalists from Ireland, Scotland and the U.S.A. The set begins with the fiddle-driven bright pop of "Take You Home," a cheery, sung-in-English cut from Scotland's Emily Smith; fellow Scot Karen Matheson's "Ca Na Dh'fhag Thu M'fichead Gini" on the other hand is sung in dialect, and while beautifully rendered it is not cheery, perhaps reflecting that the song is based on a traditional women's work song. The scene switches to Ireland for Cara Dillon's somewhat eerie "Hill of Thieves" where she also plays flute, and for "Spanish Lady" from the sister duo of Maighread and Triona Ni Dhomhnaill where the sound will be very familiar to fans of Irish folk music. As to the American performers, Rebecca Pidgeon and Rose Laughlin update traditional Scottish folk songs, "Fhear a Bhata" and "Wild Mountain Thyme" respectively while Cathy Ryan also covers a Scottish tune, the sad and reflective Dougie MacLean cut "Garden Valley." This collection is for the quite times of your St. Patrick's Day; if you're going to spend the occasion whooping it up and drinking, this set is perfect for staying in the mood while you come back to reality.
Eileen Ivers - Scatter the Light
An American of Irish heritage, Ivers here blurs the line between Irish music and Americana, the stateside genre that also has roots in Ireland. A GRAMMY Award winning musician, Ivers has been dubbed "the Jimi Hendrix of violin" by the New York Times. The paper was referencing Ivers' virtuosity; she doesn't literally set her instrument on fire like Jimi did but there may very well have been hot embers on the studio floor when she recorded "Chase the Blues Away," a lively dance number with jaw-dropping riffs. "Gratitude" is equally impressive, albeit slowed down to reflect a more somber mood fit for showing appreciation. "Zero G (And I Feel Fine)" is an homage to astronaut John Glenn's comment as he orbited the Earth in 1962, and Ivers' fiddle work is so joyous that it sounds like she was right up there enjoying the view with him. "Leap of Faith," one of the album's vocal numbers (about half are instrumentals) is one of the more Irish-sounding cuts; so is "Children Go" which also adds a touch of psychedelia. "Wah-Wah One Violin" is a funky instrumental with multi-tracked violins that sounds like it could have been on the soundtrack to a Blaxploitation film, and "Road Trip" is the perfect groove to put the pedal to the metal. Ivers is a nine-time All-Ireland fiddle champ and it shows like crazy here.
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