The Bog Wanderers,
Here's to You
(Falling Mountain, 2004)

The Bog Wanderers are exactly the sort of band that's keeping traditional Irish music, not just alive, but thriving.

The Bog Wanderers, or the Bog Wanderers Ceili Band of Virginia if you want to be formal, play straight-up ceili music. It's hard to listen without visualizing a floor full of couples moving gaily to the sound in the same way they've been dancing in Ireland for generations. (This is Irish country dancing I'm talking about, folks, which is as far removed from the Riverdance/Lord of the Dance style of stepdancing as it is from American country dancing with its boots, scoots and boogies.)

The band is Joe DeZarn on fiddle, mandolin and mandola, Tabby Fitch on piano, harp and hammered dulcimer, Danny Flynn on button and piano accordions, Betsy O'Malley on tenor banjo, mandolin and tin whistle, and Jesse Winch on guitar, mandola, bodhran and harmonica. Graham DeZarn guests on fiddle, Regan Wick on piano and Yancey Winch on percussion.

It's a mixed bag of instruments, and some admittedly are a more recent entry into the tradition -- but heck, if you have a problem with the banjo, remember that guitars weren't accepted into many session circles until the 1950s!

The Boggies play with the relaxed assurance of musicians who love their music and know every note like a son or daughter. Their sound is somewhat old-fashioned, but delightfully so. I'm no dancer, but I was tempted to grab a partner and start swinging and leaping! (If my wife hadn't been asleep upstairs while I was writing this, who knows what mayhem might have ensued.)

The music is equal parts traditional, original to other musicians and original to the Boggies. It's a mark of success that they all blend together so well, without anything standing out as out of place.

O'Malley steps up to the microphone for a handful of songs on the album. Her voice is clear and lovely and she'll find many fans out there who want a rest from their dancing, but to my taste it was good singing at the wrong place. With the flow of fast, slow and moderately paced dance tunes so deftly arranged, the songs seemed to interrupt the flow. (No offense, Betsy. I do like your voice. "Aragon Mill" is especially good.)

Anyone who wants to host a ceili dance of their own or even just take a few turns 'round the living room could do far worse than to pop Here's to You into the stereo and whirl to this expertly played music that brings Ireland home to Virginia.

by Tom Knapp
7 October 2006

[ visit the artist's website ]