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01.09.2009
Gaelic Storm Makes Meaningful Music in 2008!

Making Meaningful Music in 2008

BY: MIKE FARRAGHER
Once again Irish artists on both sides of the pond created innovative music for any musical palette. If you do not like something on this year's best of list, you probably don't like music!

For you last minute shoppers out there, I can't think of a better stocking stuffer than these great discs.

Happy holidays to all Irish Voice readers!

Various Artists, "Rootstomp Volumes 1 and 2": Spearheaded by Toronto's Enter the Haggis, "Rootstomp" is a smoking hot collection of the finest contemporary Celtic music sampled from both sides of the Atlantic.

"For us, it's all about pushing the boundaries of what Irish or Celtic music can mean, whether it's using traditional instruments in new ways or incorporating Celtic melodies and themes into different styles of music," reasons ETH frontman Brian Buchanan.

"There are some great trad bands out there, but I don't think of trad bands as playing music in a contemporary way."

Fiddler's Green, an Irish outfit by way of Germany, is an electrifying combination of thunderous drumming, breezy Irish melodies and the funkiest bass lines from the land of Volkswagen.

They start the craic with "Folk's Not Dead," a fitting opener for a mouth watering sampler of progressive folk and rock.

The Elders contribute a bright track from their collection of sunny melodies. "Gonna Take a Miracle" comes complete with crowd noises from their minions in their Kansas City home.

Enter the Haggis contributes "New Monthly Flavor" and "One Last Drink."

For more information, check out enterthehaggis.com.

Damien Dempsey, "The Rocky Road": In this collection of 11 traditional and contemporary Irish folk songs that includes "The Twang Man," "Schooldays Over," and "Night Visiting Song," Dempsey conveys our country's tumultuous history, his own family tradition and his personal emotion in a way that remains relevant and meaningful to the Irish and non-Irish listener alike.

With Ireland in economic crisis as the ruins of the Celtic Tiger maul its foundation, "The Rocky Road" is the right music delivered at the right time. It is a crucial connection to the roots of our past that is sorely needed, regardless of what side of the Atlantic you find yourself.

Gaelic Storm, "What's the Rumpus": With instruments ranging from African drums, Irish bagpipes and Celtic fiddle to trombones and Cajun-style accordions, there is something for everyone on "What's the Rumpus," the phenomenal CD from Gaelic Storm.

The collection opens with the title track, a sizzling Cajun toe-tapper that was born to breathe on the wide open spaces of a summer festival. "They were charging me a cover on my own front door," they sing, tipping the listener off to the wild party tunes that await.

"The Samurai Set" and "Death Ride to Durango" are spirited, unrelenting reels that display the formidable chops of this touring warhorse.

The BibleCode Sundays, "Ghosts of Our Past": If Bruce Springsteen snorted some Lucky Charms, it might sound something like this. The band can put down the whiskey long enough to write a tear jerker that will hit every Irish immigrant in the gut.

"The moonlight where we used to walk/I left you standing there/I left you alone/I could swear the my sorrow you could see from my shadow," Ronan MacManus sings to his lover before he boards "the coffin ship to New York" on the gorgeous "Mayo Moon."

Gemma Hayes, "The Hollow of the Morning": Young, blonde, and hotter than donut grease, musical careers have been made on much less than this.

On "The Hollow," Tipperary-born Gemma Hayes proves that she is much more than just a pretty face.

She is an Irish sister-in-arms to Jewel and Dido, offering an enticing package of lilting poetry, catchy acoustic melodies and a come hither persona that comes at you loud and clear, despite her penchant for whispering throughout the album.

The disc opens with "This Is What You Do," a note-perfect coffeehouse ditty that delivers a venti decaf shot of angst. "My tired eyes are like lonely stars/trying to find some order in the chaos/you look so happy but me I'm barely hanging on," she sings.

"January 14" is less than two minutes in length, but it is packed with the stark imagery of trees "that are bare" and "swallows that have flown." It is an open letter to someone the singer misses, and it is a hurt that sounds fantastic.

"Sad Ol Song" is a tune that is aptly named. In a jaded, agitated delivery Hayes sings about sad songs that sting your eyes and gets stuck in your rib cage.

Mark Geary, "Opium": This is an appropriate title for the music of Dublin singer-songwriter Mark Geary's new album. It's dark, sometimes dangerous and no less addictive.

"Cold Litte Fire" is a song about seduction that, like many of these songs, can also speak to the temptations of chemically-induced euphoria.

"We've been here all night, God knows I've been trying," he sings before pleading for the cold little fire to "make me again."

Is he cooking crack or cracking the code of a resistant lover? You decide.

Like many great Irish lyricists, Geary has a knack for piecing together expressive couplets that reveal everything and nothing all at once.

Various Artists, "In The Name of Love: Africa Celebrates U2": This is a celebration of the music, culture and future of Africa.

Why is it in an Irish rock Top 10 list?

Well, it is an unprecedented musical homage to Bono and U2 for their ongoing humanitarian relief efforts aiding the beloved continent. A portion of the record's proceeds will directly benefit the Global Fund.

The disc is populated with Grammy Award-winning/nominated African artists as well as top up-and-coming talents, including Angelique Kidjo, Les Nubians, Sierra Leone's Refugee All Stars, Vieux Farka TourZ, Vusi Mahlasela and the Soweto Gospel Choir.

These artists triumphantly and defiantly transforms the trademark U2 rock sound into a sunny global party that is a perfect companion in the upcoming warm months.

And, our album of the year award goes to . . . Celtic Cross, "Shores of America": The awkward feeling you get when you interact with your Irish cousins on their home turf. Sipping sickeningly sweet Shirley Temples at the bar in East Durham while your parents did ceili dancing. Taking the events of 9/11 especially hard when you count the Irish dead in the rubble.

Sound familiar? If you're like me, these are the experiences you draw on when reflecting on what it means to be Irish American in this neck of the woods.

This is the soundtrack of your life, set against a diverse musical back drop that includes alternative country, modern rock, traditional melodies and playful funk.

"Shores of America" opens with title track, a collection of musical vignettes wrapped within 4:32 of blissful alt country riffs. The characters in this song are trying to make it in America before deciding to move back to the motherland.

Based on the draconian immigration polices being inflicted on the Irish these days, the song should ring true for many undocumented families trying to make a go of it here.

"When we embarked on this CD we really tried to create something different," said Kathleen Fee during an exclusive chat with the Irish Voice.

"We wrote about who we all are, the Irish influence, our Irish parents, and playing Irish music. But we were all born in America and we grew up listening to a lot of different pop and rock elements as well. I suppose that made us all little melting pots. We wanted to create something that spoke to all those musical genres. "

Check them out on celticcross.com. 
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