Yann-Fañch Kemener, an influential Breton folk music singer
died on March 16, 2019. He was involved
in the revival of a Breton style called Kan ha diskan.
Yann-Fañch Kemener was born April 7, 1957 in Sainte-Tréphine
(Côtes-d’Armor), in the heart of Brittany’s Fañch region (France). He grew up
in a family of singers and dancers.
Breton was his mother tongue and the transmission was done
naturally. At four, he participated in his first fest-noz (Breton night
festival) and his first performance on stage was at 15, encouraged by Albert
Influenced by the great voices of elders like Mrs. Bertrand,
Yann-Fañch performed gwerz (Breton epic folk songs) and other styles at fest-noz
events, together with artists such as Marcel Guilloux, Erik Marchand, and Ifig
He recorded Deep Songs of Brittany Vol. 1, including the
Skolvan Ballade, Gousperrou ar ranned and La Grande Passion. In 1982, the Charles-Cros
academy gave him the Grand Prix Heritage for the three album series Deep Songs
In 1988, he founded the influential group Barzaz with Gilles
Le Bigot (guitars), Jean-Michel Veillon (flutes), Alain Genty (bass) and David
Hopkins (percussion). It became one of the legendary bands of Breton music.
In 1991, he recorded the album Kerzh ‘Ba’ n Dañs’ with the
group Skolvan. Later, he met Didier Squiban with whom he recorded three albums,
creating a new genre called “gwerz de chambre” (chamber gwerz).
In the early 2000s, Yann-Fañch started a duet with cellist
In 2010, he was awarded the Knight Medal of the Order of
Arts and Letters in 2015.
In 2016, he put together another band, along with Erwann
Tobie and Heikki Bourgault under the name Yann-Fañch Kemener Trio. The intention
was to entertain the fest-noz.
African music star Angelique Kidjo is set to release her new album Celia (Verve/Universal Music France) on April 19, 2019. The new recording reimagines and celebrates “The Queen of Salsa,” Cuban artist Celia Cruz. Guests on the album include Nigerian Afrobeat pioneer Tony Allen on drums, Meshell Ndegeocello on bass, Sons Of Kemet, and Gangbé Brass Band.
Angelique Kidjo is currently touring the United States, presenting songs from her 2018 album Remain In Light, which reconceptualized the music of influential rock band Talking Heads.
She will be at the Savannah Music Festival on April 6th, 2019 and at Carolina Theatre in Durham, North Carolina on April 8th. Other tour dates include:
Ulster Performing Arts Center
German-Spanish musician Amir-John Haddad, better known as El Amir, was born in 1975 in Freiburg im Breisgau, Germany. He moved to Spain in 1997.
El Amir is a multi-instrumentalist, composer, arranger, musical director, and producer. He‘s considered one of the best concert guitarists in today‘s Spanish scene, defined by his personality, maturity, sound and style.
El Amir has been playing flamenco guitar and the Arabic oud since he was seven years old, and has been performing on stage for 30 years. In addition to his extensive career, he has learned how to play traditional Mediterranean instruments including the Greek bouzouki and Turkish saz, being a virtuoso in all of them.
El Amir has collaborated with a long list of artists including Radio Tarifa, Chambao, Marcus Miller and Juno Reactor.
In 2010, Amir-John presented his show “From East to West,” combining all the instruments he plays, Arabic lute, Turkish saz, Greek bouzouki, flamenco guitar and the triple-necked electric guitar to expose a wide range of traditional music. A trip through several regions of the Mediterranean, through different instruments and original compositions mixed with modern and contemporary sounds, fired through effects processors.
Amir-John Haddad was part of a Madrid-based world music superband called Zoobazar. Group members included El Amir on oud and saz; La Musgaña’s fiddler, Diego Galaz on fiddle and mandolin; La Shica’s and Eliseo Parra’s drummer and percussionist, Pablo Martin Jones on drums and percussion; and the bassist of rock band GN3, Hector Tellini.
Zoobazar’s debut album, Uno (2011), was a mesmerizing journey across the musics of the Mediterranean countries, including Iberian folk music, Turkish, Balkan, Greek, Middle Eastern and North African grooves and tunes combined with rock, funk and jazz.
In 2017, Amir John Haddad played Vivaldi’s Concerto in C major for Mandolin for the first time on Greek bouzouki. The debut took place on the 6th of November at the National Auditorium of Music in Madrid accompanied by outstanding musicians from the Spanish National Orchestra.
Another project in 2017 was a collaboration with Paco de Lucia’s nephew, José María Bandera. The two guitarists performed material from Paco’s last album, Canción Andaluza, including María de la O, Señorita, I have to love you while you live, Chiquita Piconera, Romance of Valentía and Ojos Verdes, by Quintero, León and Quiroga and other great composers. The show also featured Josemi Garzón on double bass and Israel Katumba on percussion.
El Amir was one the featured solo artists of the Hans Zimmer’s Tour performing flamenco guitar, electric guitar, Greek buzuki and ukulele. “The World of Hans Zimmer – A Symphonic Celebration” presents the composer’s works arranged for a live symphony orchestra. Zimmer spent months working on transforming his soundtracks into opulent concert suites. interpreting a very special selection of soundtracks from the most famous films such as Pirates of the Caribbean, Gladiator, Mission Impossible, The Holiday or Madagascar.
Jorge Abner Drexler Prada, better known as Jorge Drexler, was born on September 21, 1964. He came to the world’s attention with his unprecedented 2005 Academy Award for Best Song From a Film. His song “Al Otro Lado del Rio,” from the acclaimed movie The Motorcycle Diaries, was the first Spanish-language song ever to be nominated and the first foreign-language song in the Academy’s long history to actually win.
Jorge Drexler’s career path initially followed in the family tradition: his parents and siblings are all doctors. He received a medical education, specializing in Otolaryngology (ear, nose and throat). Although medicine was the family profession, music and literature were an integral part of his upbringing.
In 1992, while still practicing medicine, Drexler released his first album La Luz Que Sabe Robar and two years later followed that with Radar. Although the albums were well received in Uruguay, success in Latin America’s smallest country of 3 million inhabitants was not enough to sustain a career.
Renowned Spanish singer-songwriter Joaquin Sabina discovered Drexler at a performance at the Teatro de Verano in Montevideo in 1994. He urged the Uruguayan musician to go to Spain, where he was sure there would be a keen interest in Drexler’s well-crafted songs.
Drexler arrived in Madrid in 1995. In Spain’s multicultural capital, he was soon placing songs with a host of well-known artists including the Cuban legend Pablo Milanés, Ana Belen, Victor Manuel, Rosario Flores, Neneh Cherry, Lorenzo Jovanotti, Paulinho Moska and Miguel Rios and sharing the stage with many of them as well. In Spain, Drexler released several albums. Vaiven (1996) was produced by Gonzalo Lasheras, songs written with Luis Eduardo Aute, Joaquin Sabina and Javier Alvarez.
Llueve (1998) had an experimental flavor, as the singer-songwriter mixed South American milongas, zambas and candombes with a pop rhythm and sampled nature’s sounds of rain, waves and wind.
Frontera (1999), considered by many to be Drexler’s artistic breakthrough, was recorded in Uruguay with two members of the funk, rock and hip-hop group Peyote Asesino, Carlos Casacuberta and Juan Campodonico (of the Bajofondo Tango Club), as co-producers. Drexler played the traditional Uruguayan styles of candombe and murga against house and drum ‘n’ bass rhythms, creating a musical base from which to express his nostalgia and longing for his distant homeland.
The resulting album opened new doors in Argentina and elsewhere in Latin America. Sea (2001) was nominated for a Latin Grammy for Best Male Pop Vocal Album in 2002. In 2003, Drexler co-authored the international hit song “Perfume”; it appeared on the album Bajofondo Tango Club which was awarded both a Latin Grammy and Argentina’s Premio Gardel.
Drexler’s first American release was his seventh album, Eco. In addition to receiving an unprecedented 2005 Academy Award for Best Song From a Film (The Motorcycle Diaries), “Al Otro Lado del Rio” was nominated for Song of the Year at the 2005 Latin Grammys and Eco received a Best Latin Pop Album nomination at the 2005 Grammy Awards.
The album 12 Segundos de Oscuridad came out in 2006; featuring 10 original songs and two covers: “High and Dry” from British band Radiohead and “Disneylandia” from Brazilian Titãs. Even though Drexler lives most of the year in Spain, his albums were partially recorded in Uruguay with Uruguayan musicians.
In 2008, Drexler released a double live album, recorded al various locations in Spain, followed by Cara B (2008), a set of previously unreleasedsongs.
Drexler worked with Colombian singer Shakira in 2009, on the Spanish-language versions of her singles “She Wolf”, “Did it Again” and “Waka Waka (This Time for Africa).
The album Amar la Trama was released in 2010. It was a studio recording in front of a live audience.
Drexler released “Bailar en la cueva” in 2014, moving towards beats and dance.
Deolinda formed in 2006, inspired by Mariza, the Portuguese fado star who is renowned the world over. With a theatrical bent to much of their work Deolinda’s Ana Bachalau (meaning salted cod) recalls bringing her feminine character to life ‘She stands for days listening to records her grandmother left her and watching through the lace curtains at neighbors.’
The songs they write are often vehicles for comments on Portuguese culture and lifestyle and in recent years they have had their track ‘Movimento perpetuo Associativo’ used for political gain at party conferences (a fact the band smile wryly at considering the track took aim at national identity).
Deolinda’s debut album ‘Canção ao Lado’ (2009) achieved Platinum status in Portugal and their unique blend of delicate fado and Cape Verdean blues saw them scoop newcomer of the year at the 2010 Songlines Music Awards.
Divanhana is based in Sarajevo, a city historically described as a crossroads between the East and the West. Divanhana present new arrangements of urban traditional music from Bosnia and Herzegovina, with a particular emphasis on the soulful sounds of Sevdalinka, the musical vehicle for the expression of amorous longing and melancholy, passion and joy, with its roots in the days of the Ottoman Empire.
The band was formed in 2009 by a group of young students from the Sarajevo Music Academy who, with their contemporary instrumentation of brass, piano, bass and drums complimenting the traditional accordion and vocals, open up the Sephardic and Oriental elements of Sevdalinka to a new jazz sensibility, while the clear tones of singer Leila Catic deftly span the emotions between heartache and playfulness.
Known to his many friends and fans simply as ‘Rada,’ Rubén Omár Rada Silva was born July 17, 1943 was born in Montevideo, Uruguay.
As a boy, he would sing for the ticket takers at the neighborhood movie theater. They allowed him to get in and he would learn the songs from the movies. When he was asked for more he ended up having to learn Mexican songs, tangos, all kinds of music.
Rada’s first professional experience was as a singer for a radio show doing cover songs and imitations of famous international singers. During carnival he would sing with the family’s comparsa Morenada during the Montevideo carnival. His nickname at that time was “Zapatito” (Little Shoe).
He was only thirteen when he met some young jazz musicians in a bus. It was the Fatorusso brothers. He was invited to join the Dixieland band where they played in, the Hot Blowers. Rada did impersonations of Louis Armstrong and other black singers. He stayed with them for seven years.
In 1964 he formed El Kinto. It was an innovative band that combined native candombe rhythms with influences from the Beatles, something known as candombe beat, with electric guitars, congas and other instruments. El Kinto wasn’t a moneymaker and hard times led Rada to seek fortune in Peru, where he was able to make a good living to support his family.
He also spent some time in Italy and Argentina. In Argentina he recorded his first solo album which included a national hit “Las Manzanas”. He also performed with one of the leading bands of the time, the Shakers. And he played a role in the musical “Hair.”
Rada finally returned to Uruguay where he found work as a singer and comedian. He also joined a band called Totem with whom he recorded 2 albums. It became one of Uruguay’s most popular bands combining candombe with melodic rock. Rada left the band after three years and recorded an album, S.O.S with Argentine musicians in Buenos Aires. After that he returned to his nomadic life touring throughout Europe with Benny Izaguirre. Rada sent some his songs on cassette to the Fatorusso brothers who were then living in the United States, working with Brazilian jazz fusion musicians Airto Moreira and his wife Flora Purim. The Fatorussos also had a fusion band called Opa that many still consider one of South America’s best.
Hugo Fatorusso asked Rada to travel to the United States to participate in Opa’s second album, Magic Time. Rada was delighted because he was really impressed with the band. Magic Time combined Uruguayan afro-rhythms with jazz and rock and it was recorded in Spanish. Rada admits that this is one of the best musical works he has ever done.
When his visa expired, Rada moved to Argentina where he formed La Banda. He also recorded an album with the Fatorusso brothers who were back in South America under the name Otros Shakers. Osvaldo Fatorusso stayed in Uruguay collaborating with Rada and producing other artists. La Banda disbanded shortly after recording its first album. Rada formed a new band called La Rada. Even though it was formed by great musicians the band also split after the first album. That’s when Rada formed one of his most long-standing bands together with Ricardo Lew and Osvaldo Fatorusso. They recorded an album titled “En Familia” which Rada considers one of his best solo works. There was also a live album that Rada is not very proud of because it was not a good performance and some of the music is out of key.
From 1991 to 1995 Rada lived in Mexico. He worked on several projects while he was there. One of the top producers of hit pop songs for Mexico and Central America recorded an album under the title Rada Factory. The album never came out because of disagreements between the producer and the label. Rada toured Spanish America and Europe as a member of Tania Libertad’s band. In 1994 he traveled to the United States to record an album titled Rada Music for Big World, an independent jazz and world music label. Hugo Fattoruso was involved as co-producer. Rada and his wife felt homesick so they moved back to Uruguay. Since then he has been involved in numerous projects and recordings. Botijas Band with Rubén Rada features Rada collaborating with very young musicians. As a percussionist, Rada has few equals. He has had a dramatic effect on the evolution of modern candombe mixing it with many other musical styles and instruments not traditionally used within the genre. Rada’s compositions are fresh and moving showing the influence of all his favoritesfrom Ray Charles to The Beatles Louis Armstrong to Carlos Gardel you’ll find them all in Rada’s gifted songs. His tunes show you he’s not afraid to experiment and approach different styles blending jazz world music funk pop tango rock and (of course) candombe. Rada is able to do practically anything with his voice from singing a soothing ballad to sounding like all his favorite characters from Uruguay’s carnival to mimicking the sounds of a trombone trumpet and other musical instruments to sounds that are simply beyond description. In addition to his to his musicianship and skill as a composer Rada’s lyrics deliver a strong message from funny to serious from absurd to sarcastic. Rada started his own record label Zapatitodiscos, in 2002.
S.O.S. (1974) Magic Time” with Opa (Milestone 1977) La Banda (198) La Rada (1981) En Familia (1982) La Cosa se Pone Negra (1983) Adar Nebur (1984) La Yapla Mata (1986) Siete Vidas (1987) Pa´ Los Uruguayos (Melopea CDM 2 1989) Las Aventuras de Ruben Rada y Litto Nebbia (Melopea CDMSE 53 199) En Blanco y Negro – Las Aventuras de Fattoruso y Rada (Melopea, 1991) Terapia de Murga (Melopea, 1991) Concierto por la vida (1994) Radeces (Ayua, CD) Botijas Band (1996) Montevideo (Big World 1997) Montevideo 2 Miscelanea Negra (Ayui/Tacuabe, 1997) Black (Negro) (Polygram) Quien va a cantar (2000) Alegre Caballero (Zapatito Discos Discos 2002) Rubenra (Zapatito Discos 2004) Candombe Jazz Tour (EMI 2005) Richie Silver (EMI, 2006) Varsovia, with Javier Malosetti (Zapatito Discos/Oday 2007) Bailongo (S-Music 2008) Fan (MMG 2009) Confidence Rada Instrumental (S-Music, 2011) Tango, milonga y candombe (MMG, 2015)
Nsimbi – Nsimbi (Imara Records / Baboon Forest, 2018)
Nsimbi brings together American world fusion vocalist Miriam Tamar and Ugandan singer-rapper and spoken word artist GNL Zamba. With the help of superb East African musicians, multi-instrumentalist Jaja Bashengezi and percussionist Herbert Kinobe, Nsimbi combines East African melodies and a wide-range of pan-African beats with exquisite electric and acoustic guitar and western vocals techniques.
The album includes vocals in various languages, including English,
Swahili, Luganda and Lingala.
So, here we are. We’ve come to that time of year when I have this sudden insane desire to rip paper shamrocks from the walls and turn them into origami swans. With a few deft strokes of a Sharpie, I yearn to give every cheap, cheesy leprechaun a fabulous Salvador Dali mustache. I want to fill every faux pot of gold with squid and give every green, gaudy hat its proper due by handing it off to the nearest Labrador Retriever to be rendered into a slobbery, slimy cheap piece of felt as it so richly deserves.
It must be St. Patrick’s Day season.
I am currently without Sharpie, Labrador Retriever or squid, but, my fine readers, I do have music for your St. Patrick’s Day. I’ve got raucous music, soothing music, poetry within music, music so fine as to make a pint of Guinness shed a tear. I’ve got music with fiddles, music with guitars, music with pipes and music with voices so lovely it will give that Labrador Retriever pause and so drop that chewed hat. I’ve got music from across the ocean, music from down the road, music from across a green field and music from a dark wood. So, let’s get to it.
Those seeking to find a kind of Celtic serenity this St. Patrick’s Day have to look no further than New Age NY Company’s Irish Relaxation: Calming Celtic Instrumental Music and Beautiful Nature. Celtic Chillout Relaxation Academy and Calm Music Zone offer up tracks like “Irish Relaxation,” Spiritual Awaking,” “Nature of Ireland,” “Irish Soundscapes,” “Patrick’s Day,” “Waves & Cliffs” and “Ancient Hills of Ireland” for those looking for a bit of Celtic Zen (I’m sure all you Druids out there have your own name for a Zen-like state so just fill in your own word).
David Arkenstone has on tap for this St. Patrick’s Day The Celtic Heart. Sweet instrumentals like “Hearts Entwined,” “May Dance,” “the Promise Ring” and “Secret Wedding” are comfortably easy and enjoyable. This is perhaps a little sedate for a raucous St. Patrick’s Day party, but might be held in reserve if the mayhem needs to be taken down a notch or two.
The label Lorimer has put out Rise Up by a group called The Outside Track. Comprised fiddler and singer Mairi Rankin, singer and flute player Teresa Horgan, composer and harpist Ailie Robertson, composer and accordionist Fiona Black and guitarist Michael Ferrie, The Outside Track boasts such previous recordings like Light Up the Dark, Flash Company, The Mountain Road and Curious Things Given Wings. Rise Up possesses some real charmers such as “Dark Reels,” “Road to Rollo Bay,” “The Wahoo Set,” “Eleanor Plunkett” and “Happy Reels.”
Out of the Scottish Gaelic tradition comes Eabhal and their 2019 recording This Is How the Ladies Dance. Musicians Megan MacDonald, Jamie MacDonald, Nicky Kirk and Hamish Hepburn have crafted a fine fiddle and accordion soaked album on This Is How the Ladies Dance with delicious fare like “Beir Soiridh,” “MaSim,” “Windsong,” “An Ribhinn Donn” and “The Artist.”
Luckenbooth Records has on tap Claire Hastings and her album Those Who Roam. With her previous recording Between River and Railway under her belt, this Scottish singer and songwriter dazzles her way Those Who Roam with tracks like “The Lothian Hairst,” “Seven Gypsies,” “Jamie Raeburn” and “Ten Thousand Miles” with some truly spectacular vocals.
Scottish group The Tannahill Weavers has put out Orach -The Golden Anniversary Album, out in the U.S. On the Compass Records label. This is a wonderful collection of traditional and contemporary song celebrates The Tannahill Weavers 50th anniversary and their 18th album with the group’s current line-up members Roy Gullane, Phil Smillie, John Martin and Lorne MacDougall and fondly honoring past band members. Fans get goodies like title track “Orach,” “Jenny A’ Things,” “Oh No!,” “The Asturian Sessions,” “The Ghost of Mick McDonnell” and “Gordon Duncan Set.”
The goodness just keeps on coming with Altan and 4 Men & a Dog heavyweights Ciaran Tourish and Keven Doherty and their release Hotel Fiesta. This album is a punch to the gut, a kiss on the cheek and a warm embrace all wrapped in one with tracks like “The Oak Tree (Jackson’s 1 & 2),” “Hawker’s Blues,” “A Visit to Ireland/The Lark on the Strand/Peter Byrne’s Fancy,” “Boots of Spanish Leather,” “Ur Chnock Chein Mhic Cainte,” “The Foxhunters/Dusty Miller,” “Dan the Man” and “My Love Is in America/The Cup of Tea/The Donegal Reel.”
If it’s piping you want, it’s piping you get with Live Recordings from the William Kennedy Piping Festival. This double CD set is a compilation from various performances at the William Kennedy Festival from 2003-2017. There’s more pipers here than you can shake a stick at, including Sean McKeon’s “The Maid on the Green/The Humours of Glin,” John McSherry and Francis McIlduff’s “Son Ar Rost/Song of the Chanter/The Foxhunters/James Kelly’s/The Limestone Rock,” The Goodman Trio’s “An Roguire Dubh/Airgiod Cailighe,” Paddy Keenan’s “The Broken Pledge/The Skylark/The Bucks of Oranmore” and Jarlath Henderson and Ross Ainslie’s “Jim Tweedie’s Sea Legs/Iain Ruadh/Thunderstruck/Angus Thing/Limestone Rock.” This is a sort of glorious piping overdose.
Following up on recordings Teanga Na nGael and Gaelre, Irish singer Grainne Holland has out this year a whole CD’s worth of her own original songs called Corcra. Teaming up with a stellar cast of musicians including Aidan O’Rourke, Liam Bradley, Brendan Mulholland, Cormac McCarthy, Niamh Dunne, John Joe Kelly, Paul Dunlea, Conor McCreanor and Steve Jones, Ms Holland turns out a stunning collection of songs including “Mise Agus Tusa,” “Coinsias, Corp Agus Croi,” “Harry’s” and “An Ri Rua.” There will be no dry eye in the house by the time she’s done.
Lead vocalist Mairi Britton, fiddler Katie McNally, pianist, accordionist, mandolinist and vocalist Neil Pearlman and border and highland piper Elias Alexander make up the group Farsan and their debut recording “Gaelic Traditions in the New World” is rich and rewarding and well worth a listen. Masterly moving through tracks like “Taladh A’ Phuilein,” “Pronn An Caoran,” “The Water Boiling Machine,” “Fear Drabastach,” “A’ Mhisg A Chuir An Nollaig” and “Gun Togainn Air Hugan,” Farsan turns out a recording that’s equal parts achingly lovely and joyfully jaunty.
Scottish accordion player Gary Innes shows off his chops on his recording Imminent. Leaning heavily on his own compositions, Mr. Innes casts a wide net over the tracks of Imminent, offering up goodies like “The Doctor’s Order,” the raucously wild “Welcome to New York,” the sweetly solemn “Sheerwater,” the completely entertaining “Alpha Runrig” and the easy mood of “Trade Winds.”
St. Paul, Minnesota native Hannah Flowers takes a turn in Irish with her recording Amhran na Cruite: Songs of the Harp. Angelic vocals and fairy compositions woven throughout tracks like “Buachaill on Eirne,” “Cul Tiubh na bPearlai,” “Urchnoc Chein Mhic Cainte” and “Dun Do Shuil” will surely earn Ms. Flowers a nostalgic tear at the thoughts of the old country.
If you are looking for some straight up Irish folk then look no further than Daoiri Farrell’s A Lifetime of Happiness. This is the real deal Irish folk fare to cozy up along with some properly pulled pints and a few friends. You’ll want to snag a listen to tracks like “The Galway Shawl,” “Valentine O’Hara,” “Theres the Day,” “Sweet Portadown,” “Rosie Reilly” and “Via Extasia” if for no other reason than Mr. Farrell’s plumy Irish vocals.
The Skye born, Scottish smallpipes player Brighde Chaimbeul’s recording The Reeling is shockingly good and I mean leaked out of the air, bubbled up from some strange lake good. Recorded live in a historic church in Cromarty, Scotland, the music of The Reeling sounds as if it had just lingered in the air for a couple of centuries before a wee lass captured it and put it down for the rest of us. Don’t believe me? Check out tracks like “A Bhriogais Uallach/Highean Donn nan Gobhar,” “Moma e Moma Rodila,” “An Leimras/Harris Dance” and “Gur Boidheach Nighean Donn Mo Chridhe.”
Brandishing pipes and whistles, Jose Manuel Tejedor gives listeners a taste of Spain’s Celtic flavor on Miraes. Mr. Tejedor lays down the goodness with tracks like “Automatas,” “Espiona,” “Miraes” and “Rihonor/Rio de Onor.”
In addition to Mr. Tejedor on pipes and whiles Miraes is packed bouzouki, mandolin, bodhran, violin, concertina and with some steel guitar from fellow musician Angel Ruiz on “Valles.”
This is rather typical Celtic Woman fare with “Mo Ghile Mear,” Dulaman,” and “Fields of Gold” gracing Homecoming and tracks like “Ancient Land,” “Homeland,” “Mna Na hEireann” and “Tara’s Tune” on Ancient Land. While not exactly to my particular tastes, I’m sure there’s some out there waiting with baited breath to get a listen.
It started out with a few folk. People like Dave Geraghty, Gary Lightbody, Bono, Conor O’brien,Loah, Roisin O, Cathy Davey, Galia Arad, Faye O’Rourke, Saint Sister, Little Green Cars, The High Hopes Choir and The Camden Orchestra, along with musicians Cian Boylan, Conor Brady, Ben Castle, Colm Mac Con Iomaire, Colm Quearney, Rob Malone and Graham Hopkins. Well, these folk put out the single “Homeward Bound” as a way to aid the homeless. Well, wouldn’t you know they put an album to carry their good works over. Street Lights, the album, teams up the likes of Damien Dempsey, Snow Patrol, The Frames, Vincent McMorrow, Villagers and Luka Bloom for a CD that will benefit Ireland’s homeless. Fans will want to check out Street Lights’s version of Paul Simon’s “Homeward Bound,” Damien Dempsey’s “Soft Rain,” Stephen James Smith’s spoken word coolness on “My Ireland” and Richard Hawley and Lisa Hannigan’s “Hush A Bye Mountain.”
Quicksand Cafe by Bangers & Mash, out on the Dancing Druid Music label might appeal those who want to gather up a gang of toughs and rock out this St. Patrick’s Day. Pulling together the talents of vocalist and percussionist Liam Hudock, electric bassist Seth Lesselbaum, vocalist and bodhran player Carole Lesselbaum, vocalist and guitarist Chad Herth, vocalist and fiddler Alexandra Adams, drummer Anthony Anastase and guest guitarist and drummer Brian Gabriel, Quicksand Cafe is a quick-paced Celtic steamroller as it rollicks along with tracks like “Fields of Athenrye,” “Star of the Country Down,” title track “Quicksand Cafe,” “Rambling Rover” and “Morrison’s Jig.”
From Wales there’s the stunning recording Y Tribanwr by the group YR Hwntws. Lushly sweet with jazzy overtones, Y Tribanwr is downright delicious. Corralling the talents of vocalist Gregg Lynn, vocalist, tabor player and percussionist Nia Lyn, fiddler Bernard KilBride, vocalist, flute and whistle player Imogen O’Rourke, mandocello player Dan B. James and double bassist and bass guitarist Dean Ryan, YR Hwntws has a tight, neat sound throughout tracks like “ Ym Mhontypridd mae ‘Nghariad,” “Aradwr a’i Ychen,” “Bro Morgannwg,” “Ffarwel I Dai’r Cantwr” and “Diawledig a Nefolaidd/Pibddawns Gwr Wrecsam.” The music is downright lovely, the recording excellent and the liner notes contain the Welsh lyrics to all the songs if you want to give your Welsh a go and the English translations if you’re a scaredy cat like me. Yeah, I think speaking Welsh might just need a wee bit of courage.
Another offering from Wales and a sort of off-the-beaten track comes Gwn Glan Beibl Budr. Fans might recognize Lleuwen Steffan’s voice by her previous recordings Tan, Duw A Wyr/God Only Knows and Penmon. While Gwn Glan Beibl Budr might be a tad more experimental than the Celtic Woman set would tolerate, but Ms. Steffan’s vocals on tracks like “Y Garddwr” and “Can Taid” are just too good to miss. Fans should check out the silky smooth vocals of “Cwm Rhondda” against some pretty fabulous percussion and instrumentation. Other goodies include the lazy smoky feel of “Caerdydd” and the sweet elegance of “Mynyddoedd.”
One of the real gems this year has to be Real World Records’ The Gloaming 3. So finely wrought, so utterly elegant, The Gloaming 3 is likely to cause normally placid people to turn to others and snottily ask, “Must you breathe in and out so loudly?” for fear of missing a single note. The Gloaming 3 gang of vocalist Iarla O Lionaird, hardanger d’amore player Caoimhin O Raghallaigh, guitarist Dennis Cahill, fiddler Martin Hayes and pianist Thomas Bartlett transform a voice and four instruments into a Celtic music lover’s wonderland. There’s no need to point out particular tracks, simply because it’s wonderful from the opening notes of “Meachan Rudai (The Weight of Things)” to the very last note of “Amhran na nGleann (The Song of the Glens).” All one needs to do is to surrender to the timelessness of each precious note and let the rest go hang.
I hope some of this music might go a long way to soothe the irritations of cheap green beer, insanely drunken revelers in matching T-shirts with “Irish you were naked” printed on the front and the stupidly obnoxious guy dressed as a leprechaun this St. Patrick’s Day. If not, my advice is to grab a Sharpie, a Labrador Retriever and a bucket of squid.
I’ll leave you with the Gaelic saying, “Giorraionn beirt bothar.” It essentially means “Two people shorten a road.” So, grab a friend, order up a pint, tell a tall tale and revel in some fine music.
Your Connection to traditional and contemporary World Music including folk, roots and various types of global fusion