Saint Patrick’s Day (March 17) has become a key holiday for Celtic music. Many record labels, especially in the United States, use the celebration of the Irish patron saint to release Irish music and sounds from other Celtic lands. World Music Central has compiled a list of some of the latest releases in the genre.
In the past years, female singers from Ireland have acquired a leading role. Two of its finest exponents, Susan McKeown and Niamh Parsons have brand new albums. McKeown is based in the USA and she likes to collaborate with international musicians. On the edgy Blackthorn: Irish Love Songs she features musicians from Ireland, Latin America and Spain.
For lovers of punk rock, there is the new volume of Shite’n’Onions, Shite N Onions 2, What the Shite, which is a compilation of Irish punk and folk bands. The artist who appear on the recording are: Blaggards, Jackdaw, The Go Set, The Kissers, Three Day Threshold, The Peelers, Jugopunch, Larkin, Mutiny, The Gobshites, The Town Pants, Icewagon Flu, McGillicuddys, Sharky Doyles, Warblef, The Pubcrawlers, The Porters, and Barney Murray. Volume 1 was titled Shite ‘n’ Onions, Vol. 1.
One of Ireland’s most famous folk bands is The Chieftains. RCA Victor has put together a two-CD, The Essential Chieftains. The large collection includes some of the earlier works as well as recent collaborations with top music stars such as Sting, Elvis Costello, Bela Fleck, Los Lobos and Sinead O’Connor.
Another anthology of Irish music is the self explanatory, Whiskey in the Jar: Essential Irish Drinking Sings & Sing Alongs. The two-CD set includes legendary artists The Dubliners, The Pogues and The Clancy Brothers. Another album in the same line is the reissue of the classic 1959 Irish Drinking Songs, Come Fill your Glass With Us by The Clancy Brothers & Tommy Makem.
More classic recordings are included in Lark in the Morning, Folk songs and Dances from the Irish countryside. The album focuses on the rich tradition of Irish folk music. The recordings were collected throughout Ireland in 1955. The artists featured are: Diane Hamilton, Patrick O’Keefe, Liam Clancy, Tommy Makem, Paddy Tunney, Sarah Makem and Joan Clancy.
If you are a fan of the Irish tenors, you can investigate the roots of their music in another compilation: Original Irish Tenors – The Legendary Voices of Celtic Song. This collection includes very old recordings that have been restored and transferred from 78 rpm originals.
To the east of Ireland lies its Celtic neighbor, Scotland. Scottish music is a goldmine for new Celtic music. Greentrax is one of the leading producers of new Scottish music. Its latest two offerings are by Scottish singer-songwriter Steve Byrne and pianist James Ross. Steve Byrne is well known for his work with the group Malinky. On Songs from Home, Byrne plays guitars, bouzouki, cittern and bodhrán. He sings poems and songs set to music from the Angus region of Scotland. His countrymate James Ross plays new arrangements of traditional music on the piano on James Ross.
Wales is represented by Gwilwm Morus, a musician from Bangor, who has been collaborating with Palestinian musicians. His latest is From Bethlehem to Bangor.
The Celtic diaspora is represented by North American musicians. One of Canada’s finest is Mary Jane Lamond. On Stóras, which means Treasures, Lamond uses Scottish Gaelic, combining preservation with tasteful innovation. She is part of a movement to reverse the disappearance of the Gaelic language, but also uses the traditional song form as her basis for modern interpretation.
Irish heritage is essential in many large cities in the United States, especially in the northeast. Cherish the Ladies has become one of the most important Celtic ensembles in the world. It is formed by top of the line female instrumentalists from the United States. Their latest album is Woman of the House and it includes many of their friends from the other side of the Atlantic, singers and musicians from Scotland, Ireland and England.
Galicia and Asturias are the Celtic powerhouses in Spain. However, Celtic music is popular in other parts of the country. O’Carolan is the name of a Celtic band from Zaragoza. The Irish influence is clearly evident in the group’s name. What distinguishes the group is that it combines Celtic music with Spanish and Balkan sounds. O’Carolan‘s new album is La llave de los sueños [The Key to Dreams].
Also influenced y Irish music is Czech group Irish Dew. On Sance, Czech and Irish musicians combine Celtic sounds and instruments with the balalaika and jembe.