(self-produced, 2002)

From just looking over the songs listed on this CD, it seems as if Killultagh is a group of Irish-Americans hankering for the good old days back in Ireland, based on stories told to them by their grandparents. "The Water is Wide" and "The Wild Rover" are titles that have been done and overdone over the years. What on earth could this new group offer?

Stereotypes need not apply here. Killultagh actually is a group from Ulster's County Antrim. The word "killultagh" means "the woods of Ulster," and these guys are the real thing, not any wannabes longing for the old sod. After years of playing together at sessions in Clenaghan's Bar in southern County Antrim, their sound is now accessible to listeners unable to sit by the roaring fire in that particular pub. The first track, a compilation of two tunes, "Eddie Kelly's" and "The Eavesdropper," immediately dispels the notion that there's anything stereotypical or derivative about their music. It's a fast-paced, forceful combination featuring Brendan Monaghan's uilleann pipes that surely has toes tapping and feet dancing at Clenaghan's.

Jimmy McKee's original song "The Lost Child" changes the pace to a slower, more pensive melody. About children who indeed are lost to society as "the world just passes by," Monaghan's pipes add emphasis to the guitar and lyrics.

While the songs in general, even the older, easily recognized numbers, are fine, it's the tunes that stand out on this album. It's obvious that these men have worked together for a while honing their skills and learning how to play together as a unified group. "In Praise of John Magee/The Cuckoo's Nest," combining a song with a tune, really brings that point home. "In Praise of John Magee" is a fun a cappella number, but it's the concluding tune, "The Cuckoo's Nest," that truly clinches the piece. Stephen Mulholland's fiddle starts off the piece, with guitars keeping the beat besides it.

Unfortunately, had I only viewed the tracks on the back of the CD without having heard them, I probably wouldn't have been all that interested in this release. I wonder if perhaps they chose these songs because they've performed them numerous occasions in the pub. Or maybe there are members of a would-be American audience that would reach for these songs, just as people seek out comfort foods. I do hope that future recordings find them working up some more "unusual" songs to add to their repertoire.

- Rambles
written by Ellen Rawson
published 14 December 2002