Eileen Ivers & Immigrant Soul,
Eileen Ivers & Immigrant Soul
(Musical Bridge, 2003)

With this album, Eileen Ivers continues down the path set by her last album, Crossing the Bridge. The flavors of blues, funk, Latin, pop and many other musical styles fill the musical melting pot that is New York City. In turn, they find their way into Ivers' music as she does her home borough of the Bronx proud. Add this array of musical seasonings to Ivers' skill at Irish fiddling and her band's chops and the result is exciting fusion music, not some watered-down blend that doesn't cohere.

The fun gets off to a lively start with the traditional "Darlin' Corey." Tommy McDonnell's shouting blues vocal and harmonica are electrifying. "Afro-Jig" combines a march (complete with bagpipes) and a relaxed melody set by African-sounding guitar. The ultimate "happy feet" track on this album (not that there isn't competition) is "Paddy in Zululand," in which Ivers' fiddling becomes positively ecstatic and Tony Cedras' accordion bops merrily along. "Paddy" is reprised at the album's conclusion, but one gets the feeling that Ivers and her co-conspirators could keep playing this one all night if need be. Another tune, "Dance All Night," is a tribute to summer festivals where they might need to play all night. It is a radio-friendly song that would get lots of airplay in a perfect world.

"BX Style" is another tune begging for airplay; Ivers fiddles over a hip-hop sample for a backbeat. A soaring pop chorus tops off this infectious concoction that I find myself humming at odd moments. "Go Lassie Go" is another traditional tune, but the treatment it gets here reminds me strongly of Bruce Hornsby's "Fields of Gray." Once again, McDonnell's vocals stand out, and Ben Wittman's piano adds that Hornsby-esque touch. Perhaps the apex of these pop-inflected tunes is Ron Kavana's "Reconciliation," a song of healing written in response to the Omagh bombing. McDonnell is joined by the Omagh Community Youth Choir, a group of Catholics and Protestants that also came together in the bombing's wake.

An unusual and touching piece is "Parting of Friends." Ivers' father-in-law Barney Mulligan recites his poem about a bittersweet departure from the old country and the "American wake" held for him by his friends and family. As Mulligan reads, fiddle and keyboards subtly appear in the background. Then, as the poem ends, the instruments go into an introspective version of the traditional air "Parting of Friends." The immigrant origins of Americans are so often taken for granted or given lip service, but this piece gives that experience more immediacy.

In contrast to Crossing the Bridge, this album has more of a pop touch that may not be to every listener's liking, though it doesn't come near to overwhelming the music. It is the sort of crossover move that should bring Ivers' music to more listeners but given the state of radio these days, that may be a futile hope. Still, Ivers and Immigrant Soul stir up a terrific musical stew. This album doesn't want to let go of my CD player, and it will probably treat your CD player the same way.

- Rambles
written by Jennifer Hanson
published 1 November 2003

Buy it from Amazon.com.