various artists,
The Independence Suite: Traditional Music from Ireland, Scotland & Cape Breton
(Celtic Crossings, 2006)

The Independence Suite is a comprehensive and thoroughly enjoyable collection of Celtic songs and tunes from Ireland, Scotland and Cape Breton, performed by an impressive roll call of musicians, collated from no less than 14 independently released traditional albums -- hence the title!

Things get off to a great start with renowned Donegal fiddler Tommy Peoples performing a delightful trio of self-composed jigs, "Don't Touch That Green Linnet/Doolish/Grainne's Jig," his playing sounding so naturally effortless and unforced -- as befits the reputation of this phenomenally talented musician.

County Clare pianist Geraldine Cotter contributes two sumptuous tracks, the first a set of hornpipes, "Captain John's/The Queen of May," and later a set of reels, "The Bush in Bloom/The Munster Reel/Captain Kelly's Reel." Cotter's piano brings a more defined structure to the traditional material, particularly prominent on the hornpipes, highlighting an aspect of poise and beauty that might otherwise be missed.

American quartet Navan performs an a cappella Scottish waulking song, "He Mo Leannan," their harmonies combining to deliver a stunning choral effect. Elsewhere, Irish Gaelic is represented by the song "Brid Thomais Mhurchadha," eloquently recited by Connemara singer Aine Meenaghan.

A typically lamenting performance is present, courtesy of Waterford singer Robbie O'Connell. "The Road to Dunmore" is a mournful tale of parting lovers, delivered with O'Connell's usual expressive splendour. The collection closes on an exhilarating high with the racing sound of Mick O'Brien (uilleann pipes) and Caoimhin O'Raghallaigh (fiddle). O'Brien and O'Raghallaigh deliver a powerful, punchy sound and this spirited rendition will have you on the edge of your seat!

Though The Independence Suite is billed as a collection of Irish, Scottish and Cape Breton music, there is an undeniable bias towards Irish music -- 12 out of the 15 tracks! This isn't a bad thing, given the quality of what has been included, but maybe not what the title of the album would lead you to expect. Nevertheless, this is a fine collection and presents a broad range of traditional styles.

review by
Mike Wilson

22 September 2007

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