Jed Marum,
Streets of Fall River
(Boston Road, 2000)

I grew up first in the deep South and later moved to New England; with my complex patchwork of an ethnic background, the closest thing I ever developed to ethnic identity is that I now see myself as a displaced New Englander who can do a Southern accent on command. On the other hand, I do have a strong connection, primarily through my spirituality, with my Celtic heritage, particularly the Scottish branch of the family tree. Thus, this disc's subtitle, "Songs from the Irish, Scottish and American Experience," grabbed my attention, and it actually wound up being the first of this batch of CDs to hit my CD player. (Particularly since I was also reading a book on Irish Celtic mythology at the time.)

I was mildly -- and I stress mildly -- disappointed that there was only one distinctly Scottish-themed song on this disc. The majority deal with the Irish-American experience, both of those who settled in the South and those who came to the Northeast. "The Fighting Tigers of Ireland" is a song about the 6th Louisiana Regiment and the first- and second-generation Irish-Americans who fought in it; on a personal level, it appealed to me as one born in the South, although I don't consider myself a Southerner. "Return to Loch Moy" hit me really hard, as it's a love song (I'm a hopeless and often disgustingly sweet romantic) and it's about a young woman awaiting the return of her lover from the Battle of Culloden, a battle that sits heavy upon the Scottish heart even after more than 300 years (well, at least on this Scottish-descended heart).

My favorites on this are "Grace" and "New York City Blues." "Grace" is about the Irish poet and rebel Joseph Plunkett, and was written by Frank and Sean O'Meara. Marum's rendition is absolutely heartbreaking; Plunkett was severely ill with tuberculosis when he was called from his sick bed to fight in the Easter Rebellion of 1916; he was captured when the GPO was retaken by the British regulars, but was allowed to marry his fiancee, Grace Gifford, before he was executed. The song is from his point of view. "New York City Blues" is much more lighthearted; it's basically a tribute to New Orleans that celebrates its refreshing differences from New York City.

On the whole, the CD is a wonderful listen, the kind that you can get lost in, and find yourself seeing the Boston of a hundred years ago, or the battlefields of the Civil War, or even Montreal or New Orleans of today. If I had an arbitrary numerical system by which to grade CDs, Streets of Fall River would score pretty high.

[ by Sean Simpson ]

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