(Joyful Noise)

Pan Celtic Albums

Albums that refuse to fit within one tradition

Updated September 15, 2003

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Compilation CDs

Solo or Group Artists:

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(Joyful Noise cover) Joyful Noise -- Celtic Favorites from Green Linnet (1998, Green Linnet). Nothing new here, but it is a two CD set for the price of one, and an excellent bargain sampler of great music particularly for those just beginning to get into this music. Reflecting Green Linnet's artists, the music is probably 75% Irish and Irish-American, 25% Scottish, with unfortunately no Cape Breton or Galician elements and only one Breton tune.
(Celtic Tides) Celtic Tides - A Musical Odyssey (1998, Putamayo. This is both a 50 minute viideo of the TV show made for the Canadian Broadcasting Corp. and a companion CD. About half the interviews are with Irish musicians (Mairead ni Mhonaigh, Clannad, Seamus Eagan, Mary Black, the Chieftains) and Scottish musicians (Dougie MacLean, Karen Matheson, Old Blind Dogs). The other half of the interviews are with Canadians Mary Jane Lamond, Ashley MacIsaac, Loreena McKennit, Natalie MacMaster). The narrators are Heather, Raylene, and Cookie Rankin from Cape Breton. It's generally nice to hear the performers' thoughts, but there is so much crammed into 50 minutes there is very little music wihout someone talking over it. There are some interesting short clips of live performances (taken from oher shows), but this is basically a series of interviews. Your money is probably better spent getting the companion CD. No new tracks here, but it is a very good sample of music from he diverse artists mentioned above.

(Cover of Women of the World Celtic II) Women of the World - Celtic II (1997, Putamayo 134-2) This album contains some great tracks by Cape Bretoners Natalie MacMaster and Mary Jane Lamond; Scottish singer Karen Matheson, and Irish-American fiddler Eileen Ivers.

Celtic Colors of the World (Allegro ALL COTW 2) The biggest appeal of this CD is that its only $5.98! And for that price its a terrific bargain sampler of 11 tracks from 11 groups. Cathy Jordan's absolutely gorgeous version of "Ar Eirinn Ni Neosfainn Ce Hi" from Dervish's At the End of the Day album is worth $6 by itself. In addition, you get tracks from Susan McKeown, Cape Breton's unique Puirt a Baroque, Irish accordionist Brendan Begley, Scottish fiddler Johnny Cunningham, a Welsh song from Julie Murphy and Annie Ebrel and wonderful track of Irish music from The Smoky Chimney by Gerry Harrington, Eoghan O'Sullivan and Paul De Grae.

(Best of Thistle & Shamrock 1) The Best of The Thistle & Shamrock, vol. 1 (1999, Hearts O'Space). This album is a very personal set of choices by show host Fiona Ritchie. It features music which has personal memories for her, and groups with whom she has toured (Battlefield Band, Dougie MacLean, Dick Gaughan, Relativity). I was surprised that she claims these are among the most requested tunes on the show, since several of the musicians are not particularly well known (guitarist Pierre Bensusan, William Jackson, Sileas). For the better known groups (Clannad, Altan, Alasdair Fraser, MauraO'Connell), the tunes chosen are not the most obvious. Missing from the album are such legends as: The Bothy Band, Silly Wizard, Capercaille, Dervish, Solas, Mary Black, and any Cape Breton music. I think Fiona has it right in the liner notes where she says she made no attempt to collect "the best 12" tunes heard on the show, but just 12 good tunes. An interesting album, but not essential.

Solo or Group CDs:

(The Diamond Mountain Sessions) Sharon Shannon - The Diamond Mountain Sessions (Grapevine 2000). Always eclectic in her musical tastes, Sharon continues to explore far from her Irish roots. The CD starts with a Galician foliada then a muiniera tune, followed by American country singer Steve Earle singing the first of 6 songs on the CD. Other singers appearing include Jackson Browne, John Prine, and The Hothouse Flowers. The CD is the product of Sharon gathering a wide group of friends at a house in Letterfrack in Connemara for two weeks for some "sessions". The 8 sets of tunes often feature Sharon's wonderful sister Mary on mandolin and fiddle and the Woodchoppers (Sharon's band), and are tastily done, though barely a "traditional" tune among them. Particularly well done is the duet of Liz and Yvonne Kane on fiddle w/ Mary on mandolin in "Fire in the Bellies", and the duet singing of Mary Staunton and John Prine on "Love, Love, Love". This is a CD that reflects Sharon's sense of adventure and fun rather than being a collection of Irish accordion tunes; indeed Sharon is pretty much in the background on this CD. If you like your celtic music swinging, eclectic, folky and contemporary, you will probably like this album, but don't look for a straight shot of accordion music.
(Racket in the Rectory) Liz Doherty & Fiddlesticks - Racket in the Rectory (Foot Stompin' Records 1999?) . I was prepared to hate this album. 15 Univ. of Cork, Ireland, student fiddlers and the prof. I generally dislike massed fiddles, even from players as strong as Blazin' Fiddles. But Prof. Doherty has me eating my words...big time. Liz brings her renowned gusto and impeccable musical taste, inspires wonderful fiddling, writes some very clever arrangements, choses truly great tunes, and before you know what hit you, you will be dancing around the room muttering how you usually hate massed fiddles... The tunes are a mix from Shetland, Cape Breton, Donegal, Quebec and Finland, and a lovely bunch they are. And when Liz and the ladies bite down on a Cape Breton reel, hang on, its a great ride. (Highly recommended)
(Dragon Reels) Roger Landes-- Dragon Reels ( Ranger Music, 1997) -- Roger is probably best known for his touring with the fabulous singer Connie Dover. Both live near Kansas City. Roger is an exceptionally good bazouki player. Connie contributes a song to the album; John Whelan provides some accordion. These are mainly Irish tunes, with a few Cape Breton and Scottish tunes thrown in. Recommended if you like great bazouki playing work.

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Please send me your comments or suggestions: jim@sfcelticmusic.com