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Cherish the Ladies was formed nearly two decades ago, when the term Celtic was most identified in America with a basketball team instead of a music category.

"We were Celtic when Celtic was uncool," said Joanie Madden, leader and founding member of CTL. The group, featuring six women, performs at 8 p.m. Saturday in Buffalo State College's Rockwell Hall, 1300 Elmwood Ave. Today, Celtic music and dance have reached the height of international popularity, thanks to such shows as "Riverdance" and performers like Enya and Black 47. And over the years Cherish the Ladies has become an attraction in its own right. It has performed in France, Japan, Germany, Denmark - and Ireland.

"I was born and totally raised in America but Irish music crosses all boundaries," Madden, who grew up in New York City, said. "When we went to Ireland the people there embraced us and our music. That's the biggest thrill we've had."

Irish tradition held that fathers passed music on to their sons. Madden, whose father Joe was an all-Ireland champion on the accordion, helped form Cherish the Ladies to give women a chance to carry on the tradition. They all shared a heritage that went beyond music.

"We all come from different backgrounds but we're all daughters of immigrants," Madden said. "This music is a part of all of us and that's why we've been able to do it so long."

The Ladies' music is filled with the sounds of the homeland. Instruments include fiddle, accordion, guitar, banjo, flute and whistle.

Traditional Irish dancers also appear with the group, creating a celebratory atmosphere with jigging, clapping and singing.

"It's like a powerful drug that leaves behind not a hangover - but an abiding inner joy," is the way Liam Clancy, of the Clancy Brothers, has described a Cherish the Ladies performance.

"We like to have fun and make people happy," Madden said. The joint really starts jumping when Madden does her take-off on Michael Flatley and is joined on stage by a crew of dancers straight out of "Riverdance."

"There's singing, dancing, good friends and it's like a party," Madden said.

Cherish the Ladies has undergone a few changes throughout the years. The current lineup includes Madden, along with Mary Rafferty, flute; Mary Coogan, guitar/banjo; Deirdre Connolly, vocals; Donna Long, fiddle, and Liz Knowles, fiddle.

They recently released an eighth album, "The Girls Won't Leave the Boys Alone!" on Windham Hill Records.

"I never expected we'd be around this long, making records and touring the world," Madden said. "The integrity of the band and the appeal of the music are the reasons for our success. There's a traditional American folk sound in Irish music. It appeals to all ethnic groups."

Regardless of the reason, Madden is basking in the success of Cherish the Ladies.

"We were in the right place at the right time," she said. "It just took 15 years for it to happen."

Cherish the Ladies often performs with orchestras, and was nominated for a Grammy Award for a concert with the Boston Pops. CTL is expected back in Buffalo in 2002, for a St. Patrick's Day concert with the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra, Madden said.

Pop Notes

U2 tickets are still available. The superstar band will perform May 31 in HSBC Arena and tickets went on sale last week. Although U2 has been selling out many venues, about 2,900 remain for the Buffalo date, an HSBC spokesman said. High prices may be a factor for the lack of a sellout. U2 tickets cost $130, $85 and $45.

ANIMAL PLANET is back from a gruelling, five-month world tour playing at USO shows. Among the stops for the soulful rock band: Japan, Alaska, Greenland, Hawaii, South Korea and Guam. "It was fantastic," Michael Lee Jackson said. "There's no way to describe what it's like to travel the whole world in such a short time." Animal Planet will make its first local appearance since the tour tonight in the Pearl Street Grill, 76 Pearl St. McCARTHYIZM will play at 9 p.m. while Jackson and his band go on at 10.

SUPERPIMP is a local band that features hard, loud guitars with a heavy funk beat straight out of the Red Hot Chili Peppers. Superpimp just released a new CD, "Dig," and fans can check out more information at the band's Web site,

CHRIS JONES AND THE NIGHT DRIVERS kick off the bluegrass concert series at 7:30 p.m. Thursday in the Harlem Road Community Center, 4255 Harlem Road.

Metal heads will have an opportunity to do lots of head banging at this summer's Ozzfest Tour. Reports are that OZZY OSBOURNE himself will lead a BLACK SABBATH reunion during the tour. Also reportedly set for the main stage: MARILYN MANSON, SLIPKNOT and PAPA ROACH. The tour starts June 8 in Chicago; no word if it's coming to Buffalo.

PHISH fans in need of a music fix may want to catch TREY ANASTASIO. The band's guitarist and singer plays a solo show at Syracuse's Landmark Theater on Thursday. For information call the box office at (315) 475-7980.

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