The Baltimore Consort,
The Mad Buckgoat:
Ancient Music of Ireland

(Dorian, 1999)

Over the years the Baltimore Consort have found themselves among the most popular of groups that play early music. Their ability to improvise with music from England, Scotland, Ireland and France, as well as traditional music from the Appalachian Mountains, has resulted in some very enjoyable recordings.

On The Mad Buckgoat, they focus mostly on the music of 18th-century Ireland. The initial influence for this collection of tunes was a the publication A Collection of the Most Celebrated Irish Tunes published in Dublin in 1724. It was one of the first documents of traditional Irish music.

The Baltimore Consort is of Mary Anne Ballard on viols and rebec, Mark Cudek on cittern, bass viol and banbora, Larry Lipkis on bass viol and recorder, Ronn McFarlane on lute and bandora, and Chris Norman on flutes, whistles, bagpipes and bodran, with the vocals of Custer LaRue. The members all have an extensive background in early and classical music.

The Mad Buckgoat is a nice mixture of ballads, airs and dance tunes. "The Wild Geese" is an air containing one of those hauntingly beautiful Celtic melodies. It was written as a farewell to the Jacobite army who left Ireland following the capitulation of Limerick in 1691. The title track, "Willie Winkie," "Toss The Feathers," "The Fairy Dance" and "The Pigot Jig" are all good dance tunes.

One of the Baltimore Consort's best assets is the lovely soprano voice of LaRue. Her unique sounding voice is very well-suited for this type of music. "Trugh" is a beautiful tune, sung in Gaelic, as is the more uptempo song "Girls, Have You Seen George." "A Pretty Maid Milking Her Cow" is an example of the storytelling tradition of a song that can be both a ballad and an instrumental waltz.

The Mad Buckgoat is a very enjoyable look in to some of the origins of Irish music. Their use of traditional instruments combined with beautiful vocals make this a very nice CD to own. On the technical side, the use of no dynamic range compression in the studio has resulted in a very natural sounding recording. If you want to explore some of the origins of Celtic music, this one is a great choice.

- Rambles
written by Dave Townsend
published 8 March 2003

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