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The Road from Erin:
Ireland's Musical Legacy

(Dorian, 2002)

The Road From Erin: Ireland's Musical Legacy not only has a long title, but a long list of tracks, too. This CD contains 26 selections taken from 11 other Irish albums! I would guess that this collection contained more variety than you could possibly get without purchasing a multi-CD set. And fortunately, the selections listed here are better on average than your typical collection that invariably contains a dud or two.

The CD starts out with a pair of offering from the Altramar Medieval Music Ensemble's CD Celtic Wanderers: The Pilgrims Road, which I reviewed last year; I really enjoyed their work. Their music is reminiscent of Hildegard von Bingen. If you haven't heard of her, imagine female Gregorian chant.

My favorite tracks are from the Dragon Reels, where Roger Landes is joined by several guest musicians. One of those guests is Connie Dover, who sings "The Devil and the Farmer's Wife," a tale about a woman so shrewish that even the devil could not contain her in hell. Landes is a wonderful Irish bouzouki player, and if you aren't familiar with Dover you are really missing out. (I can only guess that you don't have much experience with the Irish genre.)

Chatham Baroque, with guest Chris Norman, presents four wooden flute pieces from his album Reel of Tulloch. Together, these short tunes last less than seven minutes and, without looking at the track listing, you might think that they are all one piece. The tracks include "Mild Mabel Kelly," "Daniel Kelly," "Castle Kelly" and "Captain Kelly." If you truly listen, though, you can hear variations between them. Regardless of whether it is one track or four, there is some mighty fine flute playing going on!

Some of the other albums that selections are taken from include The Mad Buckgoat by the Baltimore Consort, Walking Stones by Ken Kolodner, The Mystic & the Muse by Ensemble Galilei, Horizons by Helicon, The Blossom & the Rain by Carol Thompson, Lullaby Journey by Custer LaRue, Chris Norman and Kim Robertson, and A Roof for the Rain by Greenfire. While I didn't write about these CDs individually, trust me when I say that at least the tracks showcased on The Road from Erin give the impression that each of these other CDs is worth checking out in its own right.

I do have to mention that despite the excellent collection of tracks, there are some issues with editing. On several occasions the transition between tracks is jarring, as if the preceding tunes were cropped a second or two shy of the end to help them meld into the next. It doesn't work. If the music wasn't so good, I would probably find these events a little too disruptive to the prevailing Irish mood.

Despite that shortcoming, The Road from Erin: Ireland's Musical Legacy would be a tremendous addition to the collection of any serious Irish music lover. It would also be a great introduction to the various sub-genres of Irish music to a neophyte. You have Gregorian-type chants, bouzouki, flute, fiddle, accordion, dulcimer and Celtic harp. The tempo swings from the fast-paced jigs and reels to more melodic ballads.

You can cover a lot of ground over 26 tracks and 11 albums, and Dorian has done a good job of presenting a cohesive representation of Irish music. I write this final sentence with a smile, but only half in jest -- if you're not going to purchase The Road from Erin collection, let me at least suggest you pick up each of the 11 CDs it samples.

- Rambles
written by Wil Owen
published 4 January 2003

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