Eddie Stack,
The West
(Tintaun, 2002)

The four stories on this CD are taken from Eddie Stack's short fiction collection, The West (Bloomsbury, 1992). He is supported with traditional Irish music by Martin Hayes on the fiddle and Dennis Cahill on guitar, which is blended neatly into the text.

"Limbo" takes us inside a monastery and into the classroom of a fanatical monk. It is the day when the class gets the remarks of their latest homework, an essay about what they see when they look out their front door. It features the tunes "Johnny's Needing" and "Old Kilfenore Jig."

"Time Passes" carries us through the years in a community, the changes that occur and the way we are only left with memories. It is a haunting story that gets inside your head. "The West Clare Reel" and "Astore Mo Chroi" provide the background music.

"Revolution" tells the story of a man who seems to have had a breakdown after being passed over for a job promotion. He decides to begin a revolution against the system. His poor wife undergoes a pitiful experience during the ordeal. The music is from "McAllisdrom's March."

"The Warrior Carty" is about an aging warrior who comes into town for a funeral and decides to retire. The town does not appreciate the timing of his retirement, just before the Christmas holiday, while he recalls what things used to be like. The music featured is "Malley's Scottish," "Christmas Eve," "The Gold Castle," "Roisin Dubh" and "Hero Hogan."

My favorite of these stories is "Revolution," but it was a close race with "Limbo," which had the better music. Stack is a master of manipulating the listener's emotions and is also adept with voices. Each character is distinctly different and as you listen to the various voices, you will build more and more detailed images of the people they represent. Even without the music, Stack's stories would be mesmerizing! He is an exceptionally gifted storyteller.

This collection of stories is important as a cultural preservation tool. As you listen, you will understand so much about the people of West Ireland, their culture, community and lifestyle. It is an outstanding cross-sectional look at the customs and traditions of the region.

Anyone with an interest in Ireland or storytelling will be thrilled with this CD. It should be utilized in all Irish education programs around the world. (Stack's second CD of spoken stories, Out of The Blue, was released in 2003.)

- Rambles
written by Alicia Karen Elkins
published 14 February 2004