Barefoot on the Altar
(Pied Piper, 1999)
The startling thing about this CD is how it was made.
According to liner notes by Tim Britton, Chulrua found a quiet place in a church in the small river town of Bentonsport, Iowa, and there they recorded themselves over two sultry days just after the summer solstice. They recorded live, as a trio, employing no overdubbing, effects or enhancements to alter their sound. And they came up with Barefoot on the Altar, a surprisingly crisp recording of these three men at their craft. And with more than 70 minutes of music, they certainly didn't shirk at the task!
Chulrua (meaning "red back," named for Fionn MacCumhaill's favorite wolfhound) is Britton (uilleann pipes, wooden flute, whistle), Pat Egan (guitar, vocals) and Paddy O'Brien (accordion). There aren't a lot of surprises here -- just straightforward tracks of excellent musicianship, punctuated with occasional low-key songs. (My favorite of the songs is "Springhill Mine Disaster," a Nova Scotia song presented beautifully here.) These three men are very good at their tasks, and the brisk recording pace gives the album extra sheen.
I recommend Barefoot on the Altar highly to anyone who's a fan of Irish music played well, without a lot of embellishments or modern affectations. This is the pure stuff, and it should be savored.
[ by Tom Knapp ]