On Water from the Well, Paddy Moloney and the Chieftains return to the traditional Irish music that first made their reputations in the early 60s. Unlike most of their recordings from the 1990s there is nary a rock star, f... more »olk singer, or symphony orchestra to be found. Instead the Chieftains have chosen to play with some of Ireland's finest musicians, including Barney McKenna, Seamus Begley, Altan, and the Kilfenora Ceili Band. Here the Chieftains cover the entire spectrum of Irish traditional music, from a stately version of "Planxty George Brabazon" with the Belfast Harp Orchestra to a raucous session in flautist Matt Molloy's pub to a number of ballads sweetly sung by Kevin Conneff. The Chieftains have always performed at the highest level, but on Water from the Well the combination of familiar tunes and great musical guests seems to have inspired them to some of their best playing in years. --Michael Simmons« less
On Water from the Well, Paddy Moloney and the Chieftains return to the traditional Irish music that first made their reputations in the early 60s. Unlike most of their recordings from the 1990s there is nary a rock star, folk singer, or symphony orchestra to be found. Instead the Chieftains have chosen to play with some of Ireland's finest musicians, including Barney McKenna, Seamus Begley, Altan, and the Kilfenora Ceili Band. Here the Chieftains cover the entire spectrum of Irish traditional music, from a stately version of "Planxty George Brabazon" with the Belfast Harp Orchestra to a raucous session in flautist Matt Molloy's pub to a number of ballads sweetly sung by Kevin Conneff. The Chieftains have always performed at the highest level, but on Water from the Well the combination of familiar tunes and great musical guests seems to have inspired them to some of their best playing in years. --Michael Simmons
Lonnie E. Holder | Columbus, Indiana, United States | 01/25/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Irish folk music sounds like you would expect it to sound; lots of pipes and fiddles and a distinctly Irish sound. However, just because you may think you know what Irish music sounds like because you have heard it on a sound track means little until you spin this CD.
The CD takes you right into an Irish jig with "Lots of Drops of Brandy," an enthusiastically played instrumental. Rather than fancy production in a studio, the group sounds as though it were sitting in a barn or a bar, playing for a crowd of people. This music is played as music has long been, without electronic trickery and lots of well-honed skill. The second track, "Bean An Fhir Rua," is another lovely instrumental featuring a harpsichord, a flute and Uilleann pipes, I think. This new-age sounding music may make some reconsider what they think Irish music may be.
"Jack of All Trades" is the first vocal on this CD. This short song sounds like a traditional Irish pub song. After this song is yet another instrumental, "Within a Mile of Dublin/The Old Blackthorn." This instrumental is predominantly fiddles, a banjo and flute; a spare folk tune that one might have heard at a local shop in days gone by. "The Dusty Miller" is a longer instrumental in a similar vein to the previous one, this time without the banjo. The flute intro on this selection leads to a fiddle solo followed by the Uilleann pipes. The instrumental increases in tempo and complexity after the first instruments take their turn. I like the flute in this traditional instrumental as it reminds me a lot of some of the style of Ray Thomas of the Moody Blues.
"The Lovely Sweet Banks of the Moy" is haunting, led by a flute. You can imagine the flautist sitting on the banks of a river, and then Kevin Conneff's vocals start, clear and simple. At the end of the vocals fiddles take over leading into harp and flute, a lovely faerie song for a bright summer day under the trees that can bring a tear to your eye.
The next song, "An Poc Ar Buile," is in contrast as it features more powerful vocals by guest vocalists. Portions of the song were recorded live and the recording fits well with the song's style, which again is another pub song. "The Dingle Set" is an instrumental with a fast pace that fits with the power of the previous song. This instrumental also features several guest instruments, including an accordion, concertina, banjo and fiddle.
The following instrumental, "Planxty George Brabazon," is light, quick and airy with support from Janet Harbison and the Belfast Harp Orchestra. The pace remains quick with "The Donegal Set," which again adds a number of guest instruments.
"The Morning May Dew" is another song with a mellow, contemplative theme. You can imagine the singer sitting in the early morning in a glade with tall grass, surrounded by woods, singing a song of pasts remembered and days gone by to the early morning sun. The pace then quickens to break the somber mood with the fast-paced instrumental "The Kilfenora Set." The rousing fiddles of this instrumental make you want to get up and move around, perhaps even dance a little dance. The fast-pace of the "The Kilfenora Set" changes quickly in the next instrumental, "An Buinnean Bui/The County Tyrone/Newry Hornpipe." This instrumental starts slowly by relying on a very slow harp, later joined by mellow fiddles. Near the end of this selection the pace picks up substantially, led particularly by a flute.
"Ballyfin Polkas" kicks the pace up a notch. You can hear the sound of dancing and occasional calls that indicate the live nature of some of this wonderful instrumental. This instrumental leads to one of the most interesting songs on this CD, "Casadh An tSugain." Even knowing that this song is based in Irish folk music, there are elements that sound as though there could be an Asian influence, perhaps showing that sometimes the development of music is based on the types of instruments available rather than a stylistic preference.
"Live from Matt Molloy's Pub" is just what is sounds like, a fast-paced, fun pub instrumental that was recorded live at the pub.
The CD ends with "An Gaoth Aneas," yet another haunting instrumental that has a new age flavor to it. Of course, new age is just another name for a type of music that has strong folk influence, and Irish music is one of those influences.
Irish music is like a lot of other genre music; you will either enjoy it, or you will dislike it. However, the skill of the musicians in this acoustic music is outstanding and this music has much to commend it to a discerning listener. You will find the roots of many styles of music in these Irish tunes, and for those with eclectic tastes, you will find these tunes to be an enjoyable addition to your music collection. For those who know they like the best music the world has to offer. "
Water from the Well
Mary K. Ruggiero | 06/19/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"The Chieftains have long been regarded as Ireland's musical ambassadors. Since their first album in 1962 they have forged ahead more than any other Irish group, breaching the wall that had long existed between Celtic music and the rest of the world, simultaneously preserving and redefining it. But since Boil the Breakfast Early, also known as The Chieftains 9, they have diverged from their roots to pursue other Celtic traditions (such as those of Brittany in France and Galicia in Spain) and collaborations with anybody that was willing. 2000's Water from the Well, however, signaled a return to form after a decade filled with rock & rollers, symphony orchestras, and country western singers.
And what a way to end the past millennium! Water from the Well finds the Chieftains at the top of their game, and they're having a grand old time being there too. There are collaborations here as well, but not with folks like Van Morrison or Sting or Mick Jagger (excellent artists though they all are) - this time it's the Chieftains paired with some of the best traditional artists of our time. From the rollicking opener Lots of Drops of Brandy to the indescribably beautiful closer An Gaoeth Aneas (The South Wind) this album is spot on, both in instrumentation and in delivery. And the tracklist is as varied as the lineup. There is something for every fan of The Music, as it is called, here. From slow airs to blasting polkas and reels to sprightly jigs and hornpipes, from harp orchestras to live sessions at flutist Matt Molloy's pub in Westport, Co. Mayo, nothing on this CD is dragged down by distracting digression from the tradition or uninteresting arrangements. This is pure music - nothing more, nothing less. If you can listen and remain unmoved, you have no soul.
I own all but a few of the Chieftains' albums and dozens by other Irish artists, and to this day Water from the Well overall remains perhaps the most amazing listen in my collection. If you decide to get this record, it may well prove one of the most important Irish music purchases you will ever make. God only knows how it did for me."
Could they get any better??
Mary K. Ruggiero | Petaluma, California United States | 08/04/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I don't know a mood this CD fails to convey. From the sprightly Dusty Miller and Lots of Drops of Brandy to the mournful May Morning Dew to the exquisite Planxty George Brabazon to the hilarious Jack of All Trades and An Poc Ar Buille, it's all here. And the exquisite musicianship and artistry of all of these incredibly blessed performers shines in every note."