Beyond the Pale
at the Scots-Irish Festival,
Elizabethtown, PA
(4 May 2002)

It helps that the members of Beyond the Pale are among the nicest people you're going to meet.

I've run into the band at several events, most recently at the 2002 Scots-Irish Festival in Elizabethtown, Pa., where Beyond the Pale and my own band, Fire in the Glen, had neighboring tables and contiguous sets. These guys are beyond polite; they're genuinely friendly to fans and colleagues alike (even happily chatting while changing a baby's diapers on the shaded sidewalk behind their stand).

But, let's face it, "nice" doesn't cut it when you're performing onstage or recording an album. What really matters is the music. Happily, BTP has the chops.

Watching them onstage during their two sets was a treat. While the band is overtly Christian and inserts a good deal of religion into their show, they're never preachy or off-putting. BTP isn't a Christian band with a Celtic slant; they're a fine Celtic band who's not afraid to promote their faith through their songs.

This show followed hard on the heels of the band's latest CD release, Hill of Sallows, and their show spotlighted several key tracks, including the title song, a band original named for a durable church in Armagh that has withstood assaults for 1,500 years. The band jams on-stage with an obvious joy in the music and easy, conversational rapport with the audience. It's fun to watch them perform.

The band is Matthew Burke (fiddle, tenor banjo), Stephen Dowdall (guitars, vocals), Julie Hamer (whistles, flute, vocals), Marc Hamer (percussion, vocals) and Hannah Stevenson (bass, vocals). Their instrumental sets are phenomenal, and the arrangements for the songs are equally strong, with excellent use of vocal harmonies.

Keep your eyes open for Beyond the Pale in your area. I've no doubt you'll enjoy the show.

[ by Tom Knapp ]
Rambles: 22 June 2002