Subject: I have found a CD that I think you would enjoy
Genres: Folk, World Music, New Age, Pop
After much soul searching following the death of flutist Frankie Kennedy in 1994, Altan founding member Máiréad Ní Mhaonaigh finally decided to keep Altan going but without a new flutist. Instead she promoted accordionis... more »
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After much soul searching following the death of flutist Frankie Kennedy in 1994, Altan founding member Máiréad Ní Mhaonaigh finally decided to keep Altan going but without a new flutist. Instead she promoted accordionist Dermot Byrne from part-time session guest to full-fledged member. "Blackwater" begins as if nothing much as changed except the substitution of Byrne's reedy squeezebox for Kennedy's mellow wooden flute. The tunes mostly come from the northwestern County Donegal, a place where Irish and Scottish traditions mix more easily than anywhere else. The twin fiddles soar above the driving rhythms of guitarist Daithi Sproule and bouzouki player Ciaran Curran. Hints of the band's sorrowful loss make themselves felt, however. Ní Mhaonaigh sings both the Gaelic love song, "Tá Mé 'Mo Shui," and the English love song, "Blackwaterside," in a pure soprano filled with a harrowing sense of loss. And the album concludes with the instrumental, "A Tune for Frankie," which features a slow fiddle part that seems to hover between mourning and fond affection. --Geoffrey Himes
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(5 out of 5 stars)
"When I have to go in to work on a Saturday to catch up, this is the CD that goes on the boom box first, and usually gets played one or two times more before I switch to something else or head for home. The reason -- it is as close to a perfect album as anything out there, diving into magnificent reels and carrying through the haunting end with great mood swings of ups and downs but never anything dull or weak -- it dances throughout. It is simply a masterful album of music.I was in a traditional Celtic band for a few years in Michigan, and this album comes as close to a perfect performance (albeit studio) set as any other Celtic recording I know. I am a great Frankie Kennedy fan, and Dermot Byrne is a truly inspired replacement. His featured pieces are certainly among the high points of current Altan concerts.One minor wish -- Ciaran Curran on the bouzouki could have beeen brought out more in the mix, as he is in the early and pre-Altan recordings and the most recent album (I apire to his talent), but maybe the seamlessness and selflessness of this recording is what makes it so strong. This is Altan diving back in with renewed energy and spirituality after what must have been a deeply emotional low point."
John Reed | Sacramento CA | 03/06/2000
(5 out of 5 stars)
"A short while ago I stumbled upon the song "Molly na nGuach ni Chuilleanain," almost by accident; after listening to it about half a dozen times, I realized that this rendition, done by Altan, was the most beautiful song I've ever heard. Interested in finding out if this were just a fluke, or something of deeper significance, I sought out a full CD by Altan. Not finding any locally, I looked on Amazon.com to see what the customer reviews were like: and as they were unanimously glowing, I ordered two of them, paying with a credit card (which I never do).I had previously been only vaguely aware of Celtic music, but after hearing Blackwater, my eyes have been opened -- as it were. I have never heard anything like it. First, I have not before heard the voice used as a musical instrument with such precision. And the songs in English are beautiful, it is true, yet not more beautiful than other traditional folk songs I have heard (such as the Finnish "Taivas on Sininen ja Valkoinen"). But the ones done by Altan in the Celtic language are something else: the music, lyrics, and the language itself forming an intense union producing an impression of surpassing potency. It is as though I have never heard real music before.I see now that here we have a tradition of minstrelsy that goes back thousands of years, and Altan is among its heirs. These Celtic songs seem almost living things, not least because there still, still is an audience that can understand them directly, without the aid of subtitles or translations. And it has consequently been borne in upon me that I have the wrong mother tongue (missing it by two or three generations).These songs are a treasure. Blackwater: buy it, hear it, and weep."
A milestone, with better still to come
John Reed | 06/22/1998
(4 out of 5 stars)
"In little more than 10 years, Altan has risen from provincial obscurity to rank alongside Clannad and the Chieftains as major carriers of Irish traditional music.Founded around a brilliantly talented husband and wife duo, Frankie Kennedy (flute and whistle) and Mairead Ni Mhaonaigh (fiddle and vocals), the six-piece group has grown better with each of its five previous albums. The sad death of Frankie Kennedy at the end of 1994, as a result of throat cancer, must have threatened the very existence of the group. Yet apparently it was Frankie's explicit wish that they should continue.So with a change of labels, and no replacement flute-player, "Blackwater" is Altan's sixth album, and their first sans Frankie. It is a good album, almost great. The trademark twin fiddles of Mairead and Ciaran Tourish are there; the simple yet hauntingly beautiful voice of Mairead is there; there's more prominence for accordionist Dermot Byrne; and the guitar and bouzouki work of Daithi Sproule and Ciaran Curran is typically driving and innovative. There are some great moments, such as the gorgeous, jaunty instrumental"The Dance of the Honeybees", or the sweetly light-hearted song "Molly Na gCuach Ni Chuilleanain". Yet some of the band's other instrumentals are rather restrained, lacking some of the fire of jig and reel sets on previous albums.However by the time "Tune for Frankie" rounds off the album, you may be willing to forgive the band's earlier restraint. This unusual slow jig, set in a minor key, is Mairead's musical tribute to her husband. It is heartbreakingly beautiful. I hope it is a sign that Altan will continue to produce its wonderful brand of Irish music well into the future."