The Unwanted,
Music from the Atlantic Fringe
(Compass, 2009)

Cathy Jordan's face, staring at me from a gang of surly looking characters, ensured that Music from the Atlantic Fringe would be going home with me.

Jordan is justifiably renowned as the voice and face of Dervish, one of Ireland's greatest musical exports. But here, she's among The Unwanted, a trio of Irish and American mainstays performing Irish-American music.

Let's look at the people first.

Jordan, an extraordinary singer, also supplies this recording with bodhran, bouzouki, guitar, bones and autoharp. Her years at the forefront of Dervish have made her an indispensible force in Irish music. If you aren't familiar with her already, shame on you.

Seamus O'Dowd sings and plays guitar, dobro, fiddle, mandolin, darbuka and snare drum. Sligo-born, he's also an integral part of Dervish since 1998 as well as other high-profile excursions into Irish and American musical styles, including the blues.

Rick Epping, although born in California, has been shifting between the U.S. and Ireland for a few decades now and has made his mark playing in blues, bluegrass and Irish styles. Here, he brings vocals, harmonica, concertina, jaw harp, mandolin and 5-string banjo to the mix.

So, we got ourselves a trio of diversely talented and richly experienced folks on deck. Now take a look at the music, which is drawn from the rich tradition of cross-Atlantic migration that has carried Irish music to America, from Appalachia to the western plains, and back again.

The source material here is diverse, from Leadbelly to Stephen Foster to Mick Jagger and Keith Richards. There are Irish traditional tunes, particularly from the Sligo region, as well as American blues, folk and old-timey numbers.

The music throughout is masterfully arranged, with each singer unearthing the roots of each piece for a fresh, honest delivery. The result is a production that keeps the tradition alive and hearty for purists and dabblers alike.

The three members of The Unwanted should be commended for stepping out from their comfort zones and recording something a little unusual. A critically acclaimed CD, it probably won't sell as well as, say, a new disc from Dervish -- but it's a valuable recording that deserves your attention.

[ visit the artist's website ]

music review by
Tom Knapp

5 March 2011

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