Eileen Ivers,
Crossing the Bridge
(Sony Classical, 1999)

"...the future of the Celtic fiddle." -- Washington Post

This is not the same old Eileen Ivers.

Oh, she's still in there somewhere. But this isn't the same Ivers whose bow sizzled on her fiddle strings as she brought new life to Irish traditional tunes on previous albums. Change isn't a bad thing. Certainly, it continues the trend seen when her largely traditional debut album (Green Linnet, 1994) included surprises like the jazzy soprano saxophone on "Magh Seola" and the hornpipe rendition of Pachelbel's "Canon in D." That led in turn to a jazzier, rockier style on Wild Blue (Green Linnet, 1996), proving once again Ivers' ability to add her own distinctive signature to a bedrockof the Irish folk fiddle.

Ivers, still fresh from her popular stint on the Riverdance tour, lists more than 40 guests performers on her latest album, Crossing the Bridge. Guest performers include Colin Dunne, Seamus Egan, Tommy Hayes, Jerry O'Sullivan and Maria Pages. And from the sound of things, each artist gets a moment or two in Ivers' spotlight.

Her trademark blue fiddle is heard pretty much everywhere throughout the album's 12 tracks. But Ivers doesn't hog the microphone, either. She's content to lead at times, follow at others, share a lively duet, add harmony to someone else's solo or even disappear entirely for a fewbars while other musicians take over. The core of traditional Irish flavorings remains intact, but it's layered under a heady mixture of Ivers' aggressive showmanship. She's not afraid to slide from a sweet fiddle-and-flute duet into a raucous electric guitar solo, or mix African chants with a double jig and reel.

Ivers provides a rocking rocket ride through the old saw "Gravelwalk" to the lugubrious "Dear Irish Boy," a fiery "Crowley's/Jackson's," the hoppin' "Islanders" for fiddle and horn ensemble, and the lilting "Jama." Throughout, Ivers doesn't ever rest, bringing a wide variety of cultural influences to the album and expanding even further beyond her proud Irish-American roots.

The title track demonstrates her break from tradition by leading off with a scratchy vinyl pipe-and-whistle recording, then scraping into a nearly techno update of the tune. Yet she still saves time for a haunting fiddle solo version of "Nearer My God to Thee" and an incredibly lively fiddle-and-drum duet called "polka.com."

Crossing the Bridge is an exciting addition to Ivers' discography. I'm looking forward to the next step.

[ by Tom Knapp ]

Buy it from Amazon.com.

If you like this performer, be sure to give a listen to:
Richard Wood
Natalie MacMaster