St. Patrick's Day is right around the corner, and we all know what that means. Green, green and more green, corned beef and cabbage, and plenty of music. Celtic music has a long history dating back centuries and still has a strong tradition among modern artists. These are a few of my favorite CDs that have a Celtic flavor to them. Happy listening!
Natalie MacMaster, "Live"
This is an incredible CD, chock full of jigs and reels. MacMaster has a fierce energy that radiates from all the music she plays. While this is not strictly "Irish music," it has a strong Celtic influence that is especially apparent on the songs which MacMaster takes at a lightning-fast clip. And be assured, if she can, she does. Which is not to say that the slower songs are not gorgeous, because they are, but be forewarned: a good 95 percent of these songs are going to make you dance. MacMaster shines on barnburners like "The Farewell," "Torna A Surriento," "Welcome to the Trossachs" and "David's Jig."
The packaging of this recording is unique. There are two CDs: one is a recording of MacMaster playing a concert in Mississauga, Ont., and another of a square dance in her native Cape Breton. These are two very different environments, but the music works beautifully either way.
Great Big Sea, "Road Rage"
Hailing from Newfoundland, the members of Great Big Sea have managed to stay true to their musical heritage while giving it a fresh sound. This CD was recorded on their 1999 tour across Canada and showcases their power and passion better than any other. If you can't attend one of their concerts, this is the next best thing. All 19 songs have a decidedly Celtic feel. "Boston and St. John's" is one of the few ballads, but frontman Alan Doyle gives it enough feeling to make you cry. The crowning glory are the many fast songs. "Lukey" is an upbeat song about a boat that will have you singing along after one listen. "Mari Mac" impressively demonstrates the ability of Sean McCann to sing songs at a speed that would leave others tongue-tied.
John McCusker, "Goodnight Ginger"
While McCusker is incredibly talented, what makes this CD so special is that it includes a group of his equally talented musician friends. "Goodnight Ginger" is a quirky jig and "Shake a Leg" will speak to the speed demon in everyone. By far the most beautiful song is "The Bold Privateer," a ballad sung by McCusker's wife, folk singer Kate Rusby.
The soundtrack of the stage show "Celtic Woman" that was featured on PBS, this CD is full of beautiful songs. This contains more orchestrated pieces and is centered entirely around five women. Each of the performers, four singers and a violinist, brings her own unique flavor to the pieces. Traditional songs include "Danny Boy" and "Ave Maria." There are also some surprises, such as versions of Enya's "May It Be" and "Orinoco Flow." However, this is not a particularly stimulating CD, it lends itself more to the "easy-listening" crowd.
The McKrells: "Hit the Ground Running"
I have had the pleasure of seeing the McKrells in concert twice. Between concerts, this is the CD I listen to nearly every day. A blend of bluegrass and Irish music, most of the songs were written by the band and contain brilliant solos. A blend of instrumentals, traditional songs, and original compositions, each track is a gem well worth hearing. The title track is a catchy tune about living life to the fullest and the tearjerker "The Last Place" contains great solos. "Move Along" is rhythmically driven and "Star of Munster" is a good old fiddle tune, pure and simple. If you buy no other CDs, get this one.
Rachel Dobiesz is a sophomore at Hamburg High School.