Many forms of music have been fused with Celtic — hard rock, new age, jazz, and South American, just to name a few — with varying success. With Born Tired, Burach fuses with several styles, most unusually, attempting to merge Celtic with ’70s era funk with mixed results.
The strengths and weaknesses of this recording are demonstrated in the first two tracks. “How on Earth?” opens the CD with a strong instrumental intro, including some wild country-style fiddling on the part of Gregor Borland. But then, the band pulls back, as lead singer Ali Cherry starts singing. Ms. Cherry’s voice is pleasant and ethereal voice, but it simply does not have the drive to match the rest of the band. The odd thing is that she has a second style of singing, used on the chorus, that is much more in keeping with the rest of the band.
The second track, “The Funky Fat Challenge,” features Sandy Brechin plays a hot accordion. Combining Celtic folk with a funk instrumental backup is an interesting idea, but once the novelty of the combination has passed, the funk feels pasted on the Celtic music, rather than fused with it, as it should be.
So it is for much of the recording — when Ms. Cherry’s voice goes ethereal, the band has to pull way too far back. The one exception to this is “Nothing Left to Say” when her voice fits in nicely with the song of “Lost love and smoky bars.” When Burach adds a funk backing to traditional and traditional-style tunes, it too often feels like a tacked-on curiosity
Burach is at its best — and it’s a very good best — when they go with straight-ahead, hard driving rock ‘n’ reel. Their version of “The Destitution Reel” ranks up there with Eileen Ivers’s and “The Smuggler’s Skull and Crossed Bones” (“The Broken Bow,” “Tonaskul,” and “The Smugglers”) is good hard-driving set of tunes. Ms. Cherry’s voice is much stronger in the lower range as in “Drop My Body.”
Burach is as fine a band there is when their music is straightforward. It is when they try to get fancy that they run into problems. Still, as the worst isn’t horrible and the best is pretty damned good, Born Tired is, on the whole, a successful recording.