California Chronicle
March 17, 2010
California Chronicle | Cd Reviews
Wednesday, March 17, 2010 10:27:34 PM

Cd Reviews

By Dan Aquilante

THE old song says, "When Irish eyes are smiling . . . you can hear the angels sing," but sometimes there's a little of the devil in the beat, too. This week's CD report celebrates the Celtic sound - halos and horns alike - with some of the most popular Irish acts that have new records out in time for tomorrow's St. Patrick's Day festivities.


"The Music of Ireland: Welcome Home"

(four stars)

This collection - the companion audio CD to public television's two-part series of the same name - illustrates how modern Irish music has had an international impact. The disc starts with the traditional pub party song "Oro, Se Do Bheatha 'Bhaile" sung in boisterous Gaelic. Admittedly, I have no idea what is being sung, but the spirit of welcome and cheer transcends language. Sinead O'Connor, who often finds herself in political hot water, is angelic in her soaring, traditionally arranged ballad "Songto the Siren." Andrea Corr takes more of a pop path on her lament "Oh Brother," which connects the dots between Ireland and Nashville. For the disc's top track, check out "You're the One," a duet with Shane MacGowan and Moya Brennan that's reminiscent of the Pogues/Kirsty MacColl pairing on "Fairytale of New York."


"San Patricio"

(three and a half stars)

The Chieftains, the world's most popular proponents of Celtic music, have never limited themselves to a fiddle-dee-dee "Danny Boy" repertoire. They've dabbled in everything from pop to classical Chinese music. For "San Patricio," the band (with help from guitarist/producer Ry Cooder) tells the littleknown story of a group of Irishmen who fought alongside Mexican troops during the Mexican- American War. The disc mirrors that alliance, teaming the Chieftains with fine Mexican musicians such as Los Tigresdel Norte, Los Folkloristas and even Linda Ronstadt, whose ancestors are Mexican. What makes "San Patricio" special is how perfectly the Irish instrumentation blends with traditional Mexican arrangements. It's a surprise how well bagpipes, tin whistles and a button accordion mesh with mariachi guitars.


"Bankers and Gangsters"

(three stars)

For Larry Kirwan, the leader of New York's hometown Celtic-rock house band Black 47, it's all about the stories and the characters. Kirwan finds inspiration for his songs everywhere, including Post headlines about Bernie Madoff for the title track "Bankers and Gangsters" to a breakfast where he heard a wild story on which he based the song "Long Lost Tapes of Hendrix." On that inventive and adventurous song, the uilleann pipes are played in homage to Jimi's guitar style. The 13 tracks on this record have an us-against-them attitude that suits Kirwan's loopy Dylan-esque vocal style.


"Live on Landsowne"

(three and a half stars)

A live album recorded in Beantown on and around last St. Patrick's Day shows Boston's Celtic hardcore band at its best, wildest, most inebriated and inspired.

Throughout the 20-song disc, the Dropkick Murphys blend traditional folk with shouted vocals and peppy three-chord punk. One of the standout songs is "I'm Shipping Up to Boston." Despite what you may have heard at Yankee Stadium, this "Boston" will make you cheer.

Originally published by Dan Aquilante.

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