mon 29/11/2021

CD: Altan - The Widening Gyre | reviews, news & interviews

CD: Altan - The Widening Gyre

CD: Altan - The Widening Gyre

Traditional Irish music meets Americana with spectacular results

From bittersweet to bracing: Altan

Taking its title from the opening line of WB Yeats's The Second Coming, this new album from legendary traditional Irish band Altan sees them decamp to Nashville for an imaginative, celebratory exploration of the links between traditional Irish and American roots music. It also allows them to collaborate with many of the musical friends they've made along their 30-plus years journey.

Listeners looking for the uniquely driving tune sets that Altan are famous for have plenty to get their teeth into, not least “Buffalo Gals/Leather Britches/Leslie's Reel”, which includes a bracing gear change from the old-timey opening tune to the two reels that follow, courtesy of some nifty five-string banjo from Alison Brown. Switching between D and A major, the last tune of guitarist Mark Kelly's jig set, “The Gravediggers”, is a particular delight, channelling that kind of joyous quality that Altan can seemingly tap into at will. Fiddle player Ciaran Tourish keeps the revelry going with “The Triple T” which features some lovely, fluid dobro work from Jerry Douglas.

Captivating quieter moments include the slow reel “Samhradh”, penned by Altan's founder, fiddle player and vocalist Mairéad Ní Mhaonaigh, guitarist Dáithí Sproule's gorgeous “A Tune for Mairéad and Anna Ní Mhaonaigh”, plus the bittersweet “The Road Home” by new recruit, piano accordion player Martin Tourish.

Thanks to Ní Mhaonaigh's indescribably beautiful voice, songs occupy a special place on any Altan album, and The Widening Gyre is an absolute treasure trove, from the old-timey waltz “No Ash Will Burn” (a duet with Bruce Molsky) to the stunning arrangement of “Má Théann Tú 'un Aonaigh”. Mary Chapin Carpenter joins Ní Mhaonaigh on a heart-melting duet, “White Birds”, while the use of John Doherty's reel as an instrumental interlude in “The House Carpenter (Gypsy Davy)” is a lovely nod to one of the band's most important touchstones.

In addition to the crystalline beauty of “Cúirt Robin Finley” and “Lurgy Streams”, Ní Mhaonaigh's soaring, soul-stirring vocals on “Far Beyond Carrickfinn”, with the subtlest backing vocals from Eddie Reader, is one of the most touching things you'll hear this year.

Listeners looking for the uniquely driving tune sets that Altan are famous for have plenty to get their teeth into


Editor Rating: 
Average: 5 (1 vote)

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