it conjures up visions
of basketball for many of us, but don't forget St Patrick's Day,
the "Holy Season". That means there's Irish music of varied
ilk everywhere you go. Two well-established bands also decided to
release new albums during this busy month. Their choices of direction
were in stark contrast.
Altan, the longest running act on the Irish traditional music scene,
gave us The Blue Idol. It's a wonderful album of traditional music,
masterfully performed by a seasoned group of musicians. There is
a slight departure from the past Altan formula; this album includes
more songs than previous releases, one featuring Dolly Parton! The
tunes are still wonderful sets but appear to have taken a back seat
to the singing of Maighread Ni Mhonaigh for the time being.
Solas have been acclaimed as America's best Irish band as well as
one of the best in the world. Unfortunately, at least in my opinion,
they seem to have misjudged their audience with their latest album
The Edge Of Silence. Perhaps touring as the opening act for Mary
Chapin Carpenter has affected their outlook on their musical careers.
You see, this is a POP album!! In spite of adding a fine traditional
vocalist, Deirde Scanlon, the band has abandoned the tradition.
The songs are written by Bob Dylan, Jesse Colin Young, Nick Drake
and newcomer Antje Duvekot. All the tunes are written by the band
members. There isn't a track credited to "traditional"
on the entire album! Though obviously loaded with talent, this band
has apparently reached a turning point in their career and turned
the wrong way as far as I'm concerned. It's a nice album if you're
after adult contemporary music, but avoid it if you're still addicted
to the tradition as I am.
Based on the foregoing review, you won't be surprised to hear I
turned down Solas when they called about booking a concert here
to promote the new CD. I'm going to stick with musicians new and
old who present the wealth of Irish/Scottish traditional music in
a style more appropriate to its origin. With that goal in mind,
we presented two new Irish bands with growing reputations in Europe
in March, Na Dorsa and Providence. Both were well received by our
audience. Our next two concerts will feature established performers
who you've enjoyed during previous trips to the University of Hartford.
The Cathie Ryan Band returns to the Wilde Auditorium on May 16th.
Cathie's latest album Somewhere Along the Road, released at the
end of 2001, is typical of her previous efforts, a mixture of traditional
songs in Irish and English plus her own original compositions which
are generally traditional in content and style.
Cathie is blessed with a mezzo-soprano voice of shimmering purity
with a nearly four-octave range. She was born in Detroit of Irish
immigrant parents. By age seven she was singing publicly at the
local Gaelic League and the Irish-American clubs. As a young adult
she moved to the Bronx and came under the tutelage of Joe Heaney
the legendary exponent of sean nos/ a cappella singing.
In 1986 she was discovered by Joanie Madden the leader of Cherish
the Ladies. She joined the band and remained with them till 1995
recording 3 highly acclaimed albums that included the first recorded
versions of her own compositions. Since leaving the Ladies, she
has released three solo albums. The Boston Herald says, "she
is one of the elite group of Irish Americans so gifted that they
can't be dismissed by their Irish music elders." "One
of the leading voices in Celtic music" proclaims the Los Angeles
Times. Come enjoy this enchanting vocalist when she returns to the
Wilde Auditorium May 16,2002.
On June 22nd we will once again play host to North Ireland's premier
traditional band, Belfast based Craobh Rua (pronounced Creeve Ru-ah).
Though formed in 1986, this band's style resembles the first wave
of Irish folk revival bands from the late sixties and early seventies,
the Chieftains, Bothy Band and Planxty. After 16 years together,
through a variety of personnel changes, they remain true to this
Craobh Rua means red branch, a reference to Irish folklore's Red
Branch Knights of Ulster. This band of heroes traveled the Irish
countryside, castle by castle, staying a few days at a time, doing
good deeds then moving on. "It's a lifestyle much like our
own," says founder member Brian Connolly, only partly tongue
Brian was originally a mandolin player, trained by his grandfather,
but after seeing Barney McKenna of the Dubliners; he decided to
take up the tenor banjo, now his principal instrument.
Michael Cassidy was next to join the band and remains a member to
the present. He was a classically trained violinist whose musical
career took a turn when he attended a Bothy Band concert in Belfast
during his second year of high school.
Aaron Jones is the band's current vocalist and also provides rhythm
on guitar and bouzouki. Though Scottish by nationality and residence,
his musical heritage is most definitely Irish with parents both
natives of Belfast.
Patrick Davey has taken over the uillean piping duties for the band
after the tragic and untimely death of Mark Donnelly. Patrick is
a former all-Ireland champion on uillean pipes and is also a fine
flute and whistle player.
Craobh Rua is known for its quirky/puzzling album titles, all drawn
from the catch phrases of the Belfast vernacular. Their latest,
If Ida Been Here, Ida Been There, suggested by Patrick's grandmother,
is no exception.
The Belfast Telegraph proclaims "Craobh Rua are free advertisement
for everything that's good about Irish traditional music. They play
it from the heart and they play it superbly." "They are
among the foremost bands playing Irish traditional music in the
world today" says John O'Regan of Rock and Reel magazine.
If you've never been to one of our concerts, you owe it to yourself
to rectify that situation! Experiencing this music in person, in
a small intimate venue where you can commune with the artist, is
an event far removed from listening to it on CD or radio. If you've
been to our concerts before, I'm sure I'll see you there again;
it's an addictive but healthy habit that gives all in attendance
a happy buzz! Tickets are available by calling 1-800-274-8587 or
Tune into Celtic Airs every Tuesday morning from 6:00-9:00 AM to
learn of the latest additions to our Celtic concert schedule. You'll
also hear a wide variety of Celtic music from old favorites to the
latest releases. Thanks for your continued support and encouragement.
Copyright©WWUH: May/June Program Guide, 2002