Beyond the Pale,
Beyond the Pale
(self-produced, 1999)

Beyond the Pale, a quartet of spirited and spiritual Celtic musicians, makes a fine first impression with Matthew Burke's fiery example of Cape Breton fiddling in his aptly titled "Cape Breton." The bandmates slide effortlessly into "The Wind that Shakes the Barley" and bring the medley to a rousing close with vocals on "Beggarman."

The Pennsylvania-based band's first CD Beyond the Pale combines traditional tunes with original songs and acoustic arrangements. The songs are decidedly of a Christian slant, beginning with "Tiarna de," an original Burke reel with Julie Hamer's Gaelic vocals, which translate to "Jesus is Lord." Steve Dowdall's original song "When the Day is Over" follows with amazingly full sound, radio-ready melody and ethereal whistle accompaniment.

Marc Hamer's original duet "Hope" combines his vocals with Julie's in an uplifting song with soft rock influences. Their "Conversation with a Skeptic" reclaims their Celtic roots. Dowdall's "Rise Up" calls listeners to be "fishers of men," while the Hamers' bodhran and whistle and Burke's fiddle host a jubilant dance in the background. "Testify," written by Julie Hamer and Dowdall, includes a haunting whistle and fiddle interlude.

The interspersed tunes allow each musician to shine instrumentally. Dowdall's guitar work is wonderful and intricate on "Camp's Jig" and his original "Kevin's Jig." Julie Hamer's whistle, in solo and later harmonizing with Lisa Dowdall, on "Dunmoore Lassies" is enough of a reason to buy the CD by itself. Marc Hamer's driving percussion pushes the rollicking "Kesh Jig," "Road to Lisdoovarna" and "Calliope House" set. Burke, who dazzled in the first two cuts, fiddles spiritedly through the "Hughie Shortie's/Trip to Durrow" set.

Beyond the Pale's debut CD proves these musicians aren't afraid to take risks and move beyond the traditional. The vocals are solid, the music is full, the writing is ready for a wider audience.

[ by Julie Bowerman ]