Various Artists’ 25 Years Of Celtic MusicĀ 

UnknownNo’am Newman penned this review.

Quoting violinist Kevin Burke’s urbane sleeve notes: “25 years ago, to most people in the United States, the phrase ‘Irish Music’ conjured up images of a jolly red-faced lounge singer wearing a sparkly green jacket singing morbid songs about his Irish Mother, or a certain number of Shades of Green, or Eyes that were Smiling. 25 years ago Green Linnet started to release recordings of Irish Music – not ‘Irish Music’ from Tin Pan Alley but Irish music that was the music of Ireland: dance music played on fiddles, flutes and accordions; songs sung without any musical accompaniment.”

The Connecticut-based record company Green Linnet is celebrating its silver jubilee and in recognition of this fact has issued this double CD, containing two and a quarter hours of some of the best traditional Irish music available. Although length-wise the discs are divided equally, the first disc covers 1976-1996, whereas the second disc covers only three years, 1997-2000.

I feel uneasy at singling out names, because the standard of the 32 tracks is so high — and consistent. Amongst the more well known acts are Capercaillie with “Fusgail an Dorus/Nighean Blauidh’Ruadh”; Altan play and sing “Dulaman”; Touchstone appear with Triona Ni Dhomhnaill’s plaintive vocals on “Song in F” (the first vocal in English, as opposed to the prior songs mentioned, which are sung in Gaelic); John Cunningham fiddles away on the stately “Archibald McDonald Of Keppoch”; his brother Phil Cunningham squeezes out “Ceilidh Funk” (very modern sounding, with synthesized keyboards from Foss Paterson) — and that’s barely halfway through the first side.

Other contenders are Andy M. Stewart (“The Houghs Of Cromdale”); Mick Moloney (“Richard Brenman’s/The Bush On The Hill”); Silly Wizard (“Roarin’ Donald”); Eileen Ivers (“Ships Are Sailing”), Lunasa (“Autumn Child/Heaton Chapel”), Kevin Burke (“The Butterfly”; I didn’t give Burke’s “In Concert” CD, from which this track comes, a very good review, but here the track fits in perfectly); Martin Hayes (“Rolling In The Barrel/Morning Dew”); Wolfstone (“J-Time”); Niamh Parsons (“An Paistin Fionn”), and The Tannahill Weavers (“Interceltic Set”).

Towards the end of the first CD are Relativity, the sibling quartet composed of brothers John and Phil Cunningham, along with sister and brother Triona Ni Dhomhnaill and Micheal O’Domhnaill, who join forces as an ex-Bothy Band/Silly Wizard “supergroup” to play the charming pair of waltzes “Leaving Brittany/The Pernod Waltz”.

The final track on the second CD is by The Celtic Fiddle Festival, aka Kevin Burke, Christian Lemaitre and Johnny Cunningham on violins, with Siog Siberil accompanying on guitar. They play the Scottish air “The Dark Island” with just the correct amount of yearning to charm my sentimental heart, and to make me want to play the discs all over again.

Matching the high quality of the music is the 24-page booklet, which contains a witty introduction from Kevin Burke (the opening quote takes two of the 18 paragraphs starting “25 years ago”) alongside full notes and personnel for each track. There’s even an explanation of what a green linnet is. This is the way that compilations should be packaged.

(Green Linnet, 2000)

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