Ron Korb,
Celtic Heartland
(Humble Dragon, 2000)

Many years ago, Sean O'Riada brought a new life to traditional Irish music when he gave it a classical treatment in the soundtrack to the film Mise Eire. In more recent times, Bill Whelan brought about another revival when the Riverdance segment of the Eurovision Song Contest sparked a global phenomenon.

Since then, many others have tried to bring new interpretations to old tunes and to compose "new old music." Ron Korb -- not a very Celtic name -- may just have found that magic formula. This CD is a revelation. If you listen without reading the notes you might be forgiven for thinking that it is a re-interpretation of old forgotten Irish tunes. He has composed new music that captures the spirit of Ireland as it may well have been in the days of O'Carolan, but he gives it the soul of Enya and U2.

"Cuchulainn," named after the legendary warrior of The Tain, is a great opening track. "The Noble Land" with the sounds of flute, piano, guitar and bass brings the listener into the wide-open spaces of a lost Ireland. Close your eyes as you listen and you can float above the green fields dappled with cloud patterns. This is a lovely instance of landscape pained with music. I love to blast this at full volume on a wet rainy day and dream of lost summers. "Stefan's Theme" is another track that lifts the heart.

Sad can also be good, and this is best illustrated by the doleful "The Day I Lost My Love" with its deep and moving use of cello and bass flute. The final track of the thirteen on this CD is "Molly's Heart (remix)," and it is perhaps a case of keeping the best until last. It is a difficult piece to classify but it is one of those tunes that haunts your heart and gets stuck in your mind so that you find yourself constantly humming it.

Korb has done Celtic music a great service with this album. If it were to get the "kick start" of a wide audience such as Bill Whelan was blessed with, any of these tracks could become classics.

[ by Nicky Rossiter ]
Rambles: 29 June 2002