June Skinner Sawyers,
Celtic Music: A Complete Guide
(Aurum Books, 2000)

This is a book that I found completely by accident after many months of seeking out any publications on folk music. It is a magical volume that will definitely lead me on to others.

The chapter headings alone will make the seeker of Celtic folk truth drool. "What is Celtic Music" is the first of these and it takes on the task of answering its own question with gusto. Other chapters include "Ancient Roots" and "Language of Angels," both of which are self-explanatory.

The chapter titled "Country Hearts -- Celtic Ways" is an exploration of the music taking in religion, bluegrass and "the long lonesome highway." "Full Force Gaels" brings us through the evolution of Celtic music in the modern world from Planxty to U2. An idea of how comprehensive the book is can be gleaned from some artists featured. These include Black 47 (my hometown Wexford connection here with Larry Kirwan), Eric Bogle and the Clancy Brothers.

Each chapter ends with a fascinating list of recommended listening that I found invaluable and also frustrating as I realised how many CDs I have missed and will have to try to seek out. To add to this potentially expensive desire the author adds a list of 100 essential albums in her Celtic Music Library slot.

To add to the fabulous amount of information contained in its 316 pages, Sawyers points the reader to a storehouse of resources. These include websites (sadly, she missed Rambles), record stores, mail order outlets, magazines, associations and societies. All of these have addresses and, where possible, web addresses. In addition there are pages of references and further reading which list hundreds of books on the subject.

This is a book that I will treasure for decades to come and which will probably lead me to bankruptcy as I try to source and purchase all the albums and books listed that I never even knew existed. This book is an inspiration even if you only use it to acquaint yourself with the wide range of music that is out there.

The well-written and often very concise chapters are great to read straight through, to dip into or to use for reference.

Do not leave this book off your shelves even if you prefer listening to music rather than reading about it. Well-done to Aurum for an excellent publication.

[ by Nicky Rossiter ]
Rambles: 1 December 2001

Buy it from Amazon.com.