Red Knot
Reviews from the Atlanta Celtic Quarterly
Red Knot
by David Marcus (

New and Hot - from The Atlanta Celtic Quarterly, February 1998
The Irish Volunteer: Songs of the Irish Union Soldier 1861-1865

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These dozen selections (ten recorded here for the first time) are the songs of 160,000 Irishmen leaving their homes and their loves to fight for their adopted country. Whether heroic, bitter, proud, or sad, David Kincaid sings with a rough soldier's voice that lets you close your eyes to imagine soldiers around the campfire, the night before a battle-or perhaps the remnants, the night after. Kincaid's guitar and light accompaniment by such as John Whelan (accordion), Liz Knowles (fiddle), and Jerry O'Sullivan (pipes) add to the authentic feel. Words for all songs are included in the excellent notes. Highly recommended for anyone with an interest in Irish-American history or song-and everyone else, too. (Rykodisc RCD 10395). Track list and order information.

Gorcuon Canu Gwerin Newyoo-The Best of New Welsh Folk Music (Sain SCD 2146). 75 minutes of new Welsh folk music may sound a bit daunting but this exciting collection shows the breadth of the traditional/contemporary scene music in Wales. If you enjoyed Carreg Lafar when they appeared in Atlanta last year, by all means look for this album-it will introduce you to 15 acts that are every bit as interesting and exciting as Carreg Lafar (who appears in one cut). Travel agents should sell this CD-it makes listeners want to book a trip to a Welsh folk festival at the first opportunity. Order info:

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Fiddling of a more romantic nature appears on Maire Breatnach's Celtic Lovers. The album title comes from the inspiration for these original tunes: 6 couples, lovers, from Irish mythology. Don't worry about that, though. (I myself take such introductions as warnings rather than praise.) The music here is definitely in the traditional Irish dance forms, plus airs, and absolutely lovely. I haven't heard an album of all-original tunes of such strength and beauty in some time; there are some great polkas as well as a slip jig that I can't get out of my head. The sound of the album is very much like Alasdair's Fraser's Dawn Dance and The Road North: the accompaniment is modern; the music rhythmic and lively in the dances, evocative and rocking like a cradle in slower pieces. The sound of the fiddle is rich and broad; she has a long-sounding bow, much like Fraser, and her fiddling to my ear sounds a bit Scottish and very beautiful. It is a real winner in my book.

In Soldiers and Dreams (Ark Albums), Cherish the Ladies' Aoife Clancy takes flight through 10 songs ranging from traditional ("Rambling Boys of Pleasure", "Fighting for Strangers") to modern (Eddie Dillon's "Love to Do Over" and Adrian Mannering's "Lovers"). Her voice is so gentle and powerful; she can start a note as quietly as a bird falling from a perch, then take it into soaring flight. The arrangements by Clancy and Gabriel Donohue are modern and interesting but not intrusive. This is club music, almost cabaret music, and it is a fine, fine album.

Aoife Clancy can also be heard on Cherish the Ladies - Live! (Big Mammy Records), the first album to capture the special excitement of Cherish the Ladies in concert. Beautifully recorded, and featuring many of the songs and tunes we heard them perform at the 1997 Atlanta Celtic Festival, this is a "must have" album for CTL fans.

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Award-winning 17-year-old Highland piper Chris Armstrong's original compositions are featured on his notes in ma heid (Lochshore CDLDL 1271), an album that reflects my favorite type of neo-traditionalism: thoroughly traditional, exquisite, exciting melody lines accompanied by a modern rhythm section. His is the only Highland pipe playing I've heard that is as uncompromisingly traditional (to my ears, at least) in its melodies as it is fearless and daring in its accompaniments. But don't take me wrong--these accompaniments (a lot of which are percussion and keyboard oriented) are usually light, often subtle, and they thoroughly enhance the music.

Sláinte Mhath's Prophecy is one of the more interesting fusion albums I've encountered. A quote from the liner notes describes it well: "This unique blend is a product of combining Latin American percussion, jazz chords and rhythms, and the traditional tunes of Ireland, Scotland and Cape Breton." A Cape Breton quartet that includes two members of the Barra MacNeill family, these guys play traditional music with a twist-although one strathspey and reel set is so traditionally played that it almost sounds out of place-but they never let the foreign elements overwhelm the traditional, and they've produced one of the most musical cross-over albums I've heard. The only minus on the CD is yet another nice but slightly weird (and generally worthless) version of O'Carolan's "Sí Bheag, Sí Mhór". Find this album if you like swinging Celtic music and don't worry about the one dud.

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Order info: veesik.records
Much more traditional is Shetland Dialect a collection of performances by eight of the best young fiddlers and fiddle-based bands in the Shetlands. Ranging from the familiar ("The Day Dawn" and "Christmas Day in the Morning") to tunes newly composed in the Shetland tradition, the album includes Scottish, Irish, American and even Quebecois tunes. As well as being a great survey of Shetland music today, this is a superb album for fiddle lovers, with cuts ranging from spare old-sounding solo fiddling to thick harmonies and driving bands. (And no O'Carolan!). (Veesik Records VCKD001 -- Veesik Records, Havelock Cottage, Back Charlotte Lane, Lerwick, Shetland, ZE1 0JD, U.K.)

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