CD Review: Altan – The Widening Gyre
by Christian Lamitschka for Country Music News International
Label: Compass Records
Genres: Irish-Folk, Bluegrass, Celtic-Music
- Maggie’s Pancakes / Píobaire an Chéide / The Friel Deal (reels) – very fast Scottish-Irish instrumental medley.
- No Ash Will Burn (song) – traditional, slow waltz by Walt Aldrige. Very atmospheric duet with Bruce Molsky.
- Buffalo Gals / Leather Britches (Lord McDonald’s Reel) / Leslie’s Reel – 3 lively dance pieces, very well combined Irish and bluegrass, performed by Darol Anger, Todd Phillips, Alison Brown
- Má Théann Tú ‘un Aonaigh (amhrán / song) – Gaelic song from Arranmore Island from 1950 about the life of a young man.
- Tune For Mairéad and Anna Ní Mhaonaigh (slow tune) – Composed by Dáithí as a birthday song. – instrumental.
- The White Birds – Ballad based on a poem by W. B. Yeats for his wife Maud Gonne. Music by Fiona Black, vocals by Mary Chapin Carpenter.
- The Tin Key / Sam Kelly’s Jig / The Gravediggers – traditional fiddle dance pieces, composed by Mark Tourish
- Cúirt Robin Finley / Moladh Shliabh Maoineach (amhrán / song) – Gaelic love song to a mountain and a dream world.
- The House Carpenter / Gypsy Davy (song) – traditional song that is found in different variants in Ireland, Scotland, England, Wales and America. – Nice duet with bluegrass musician Tim O’Brien.
- Samhradh / Aniar Aduaidh Jig / The Donegal Jig (slow reel / jigs) – medley, partly composed by Mairéad and Martin Tourish.
- The Lurgy Stream (song) – Very nice duet with Dáithí, named after a river in Donegal.
- The Triple T (Thomas Tourish’s Tune) – instrumental, composed by Ciarán Tourish for his son Thomas. In bluegrass styles and very quickly. Solos by Alison Brown (banjo), Jerry Douglas (Dobro), Brian Sutton (guitar), Darol Anger (fiddle), Sam Bush (mandolin) and Stuart Duncan (fiddle).
- Far Beyond Carrickfinn (song) – composed by Ian Smith and Enda Cullen. Wonderful ballad about saying goodbye to her father Francie. When he dies a shooting star falls and so it says: “Stars lead the way, as your journey begins“. Eddi Reader from Glasgow also sings here. The choir is sung partly in English and partly in Gaelic.
- The Road Home (slow house) – composed by Martin Tourish
The band Altan was founded in 1981 by the singer and violinist Mairéad Ní Mhaonaigh (Donegal) and the flautist Frankie Kennedy (Belfast). After Frankie died in 1994, Mairéad married accordionist Dermot Byrne in 1999. ALTAN is one of the longest serving bands on the Irish scene and has recorded 17 albums in that time. We have the last product from 2015, The Widening Gyre. The title of the CD comes from the poem “The Second Coming” from 1919 by W. B. Yeats.
The current line-up: Mairéad Ní Mhaonaigh (violin, vocals), Ciarán Curran (cister), Ciarán Tourish (violin), Martin Tourish (accordion), Mark Kelly (guitar), Dáithí Sproule (vocals).
The CD was recorded in Nashville under the direction of producer Garry West. With the participation of many guest musicians from the American roots and bluegrass music scene, the band has succeeded in creating a wonderful link between traditional Irish-Scottish music and bluegrass music from the Appalachian Mountains. Notable musicians who played with the band include: Jerry Douglas, Mary Chapin Carpenter, Tim O’Brien, Bruce Molsky, Jenee Fleenor, Darol Anger, Alison Brown, Sam Bush, Brian Sutton, Stuart Duncan, Todd Phillips, Natalie Haas, Julee Glaub Weems and Eddie Reader (Glasgow).
An absolutely recommended disc, for listening and dancing.