Three More Celtic CDs You Should Know

An Irish Music Session with Altan

An Irish Music Session with Altan

Side by Side by The Kane Sisters

The air fairly crackles when Liz and Yvonne Kane get together to play their fiddles. That’s something ace box player Sharon Shannon recognized, when she asked them along as part of her touring band for several years.

Now well out on their own careers, their album Side by Side offers an adventure into fiddling that is based in the Sligo style — that’s the lively, well-ornamented variety most people in the United States think of when Irish fiddle is mentioned. It also holds a tinge of the more melodic and slower style found in west Clare. It is flavored with the women’s own artistry as well, nurtured and honed in their native Connemara in northwest Galway. There are a dozen sets on Side by Side, all well worth your listening. Especially notable are the Farewell to Eyrecourt set, the Galway Jig set, and the set that begins with The Starry Lane to Monaghan.
Buy: Side By Side

Dance by Lissa Schneckenburger

Lissa Schneckenburger plays the fiddle as well. It’s an instrument she began learning early, growing up in the US state of Maine. Soon she was playing for contra dances, soaking up the fiddle music of northern New England. In that music, elements of Scottish, Irish, Quebecois and Appalachian music meet. It is a distinctive sound which continued to fascinate Schneckenburger as she followed university studies in music and developed her own skills as a player, singer and song writer.

Though she’s toured the world with her music, the tunes of New England kept calling her home. Her new recording is called Dance, and on it she offers just that, a very fine selection of New England dance tunes, from hornpipes to reels to jigs to waltzes. She is well supported by top New England area musicians, including Bethany Waickman on guitar, Corey DiMario on double bass, and Keith Murphy on guitar and piano. Notable tracks include the Lamplighter’s Hornpipe set and Eugenia’s Waltz.

Buy: Dance

Altan: 25th Anniversary

Altan: 25th Anniversary Celebration

Altan have spent twenty-one years taking their music from Ireland’s far northwest in Donegal all across the world. To mark that anniversary, they wanted to do something special in the way of recording, and that they did: they brought along the RTE Concert Orchestra, conducted by David Brophy, as backing band.

The collaboration of folk and classical musicians works well, with orchestra musicians always in service to Irish folk ideas, adding depth and new colors to the songs and tunes. There are fifteen tracks on the album, covering music from across the band’s history. Mairéad ni Mhaonaigh leads things, as usual; with Altan, with her fiery, percussive Donegal fiddle, and with her gentle, distinctive soprano, and as usual, Ciaran Tourish, also on fiddle, accordion player Dermot Byrne, bouzouki plater Ciarán Curran, and guitarist Dáithí Sproule are all key players in the distinctive music of the band.

They open with a lively set anchored by Tilly Finn’s reel, and go on with the songs Dónal agus Mórag and Mo Ghaoil. It’s a mix of tunes and songs from Donegal tradition and ones composed by band members, as well as music from Mairéad’s father, renown Donegal musician Proinsias O Maonaigh. Altan bring things to a close with the quiet lullabye, Dún do Shúil.
Buy: Altan: 25th Anniversary Celebration

Kerry Dexter writes about music, travel, the arts, and Ireland for a range of publications including Strings, Symphony, Wandering Educators, Perceptive Travel and Music Road.

Author: Kerry

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  1. Thanks for the thorough review–I’ll have to look for Side by Side.

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