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Music Review: Wall of Tears
by Bridget Haggerty
As we approach the second anniversary of 9/11, a new CD has been released which should, in our humble opinion, become a best seller. We've played it several times and overall, it is a richly rewarding experience; the opening track - "Wall of Tears" is beautifully sung by Frances Black. It's from her album, "The Best of Frances Black." This is followed by "Fire Fighter" sung by Mike Hanrahan. The style here is a wee bit more country than we like; nevertheless, it's a solid performance. This one is from Mike's album "What You Know."
Next is "The Broom of the Cowdenknowes." What can one say about Cherish the Ladies that hasn't already been written? They're brilliant as always - but we do wish we could have heard them doing this tune - one of our favorites - seanos style. Not that the arrangement isn't good - again, it's a question of taste and we prefer our traditional Irish tunes done the old-fashioned way. This cut is from their album, "The Girls Won't Leave the Boys Alone."
The fourth cut - "Reconciliation" from the album "Seansongs" - is a lovely ballad performed by Sean Keane. This one gave me goosebumps. Done in the rhythm of a lilting lullaby, the words are both compelling and memorable.
Altan - yes, they're here too! "Slante Theilinn," composed by Mairead Ni Mhaonaigh is a haunting, wistful melody from their "Blue Idol" album. Definitely have the tissues handy.
The tempo picks up with a contemporary Irish rock number called "That's All the Lumber." Performed by Kathy Mattea from the album "Roses", it's a great toe-tapper.
"Ca Bhfuil na Paisti" performed by The Whole Shabang from the album "Anniversary" is one of the best cuts on the CD. The uilleann pipes are wonderful and the arrangement is terrific. Solid Irish - even with the occasional plucking of a ukelele.
As always, Mary Black doesn't disappoint. "No Frontiers" from her "Looking Back" recording is a moving tribute that is poignant yet filled with optimism.
Next up is "West Kerry Set" by Four Men and a Dog - from the album "Maybe Tonight." A traditional arrangement that's upbeat and fun - this one will have you up on the floor!
One of the reasons we like this CD is that the pace is well-balanced; from the frenzy of the previous slip jigs, we're allowed a bit of a rest and relaxation with a contemporary ballad - "Friend of Yesterday" sung by Eamon McElholm from the album "Somebody." Nicely done.
"Sleepy Eyed Boy" performed by Maura O'Connell is from her "Walls and Windows" album. Another slow number, and honestly, not one of our favorites; perhaps it's just a bit too sad.
With a sound and arrangement that reminds us of Sting, if you like Irish rock, you'll thoroughly enjoy "Crazy World" by Aslan from the album "Made in Dublin." It's a live performance and we especially enjoyed the audience participation - as with true fans, they know all the words and sing along at one point with infectious enthusiasm.
"Searching," written and performed by Fiona Kennedy is another contemporary tune that, while it's well done, we didn't particularly care for.
On the other hand, Absent Friends from the album "Twenty One Years On" by The Fureys is a lovely traditional Irish ballad done in a waltz rhythm. For those who have lost a loved one, the lyrics will bring a tear to the eye, but they aren't in the least bit maudlin. This is one cut we'll play often.
The virtuosity and brilliance of Eileen Ivers is show-cased in "Parting of Friends." From the album "Eileen Ivers & Immigrant Soul," she delivers an astonishing performance which reminded us of the uilleann pipes. In fact, we mused on whether or not Davy Spillane could be persuaded to record the tune! Terrific cut that will get many replays.
Track 16 is "The Blessing" performed by Jonell Mosser. We haven't yet mentioned that this compilation has some surprises - and this last cut from the album "So Like Joys" is undoubtedly the biggest. Here we have the traditional Irish blessing done as a Mississippi Delta Blues number. Does it work? You bet - and then some! Jonell's voice is deep, strong and authentic, as are the musicians backing her.
So there you have it - our appraisal of "Wall of Tears." Is it worth buying? We think so, especially when you consider that not only will you be getting great listening pleasure from many of the top names in Irish and American music, you'll also be supporting a very worthy cause. Here's a bit of the background on how the album came to be:
While contemplating ways and means to raise funds for those in need, Pat McGill, a record producer and board member of the Irish American Disaster Relief Fund (IADRF), came up with the idea of a compilation CD by key Irish and Irish American musicians. States Pat, When I reached out to the circle of musicians featured on this compact disc, I never imagined the positive outpouring of support we would receive from so many acts on the world scene.
The musicians donated the songs to the IADRF so that all of the monies collected on the sale of this CD go into the IADRFs efforts to assist families of September 11 victims. Through the sale of this CD and other fundraising efforts, the IADRF plans to send those high school students who may have lost a parent or guardian on 9/11 to the Irish Way, a unique 5-week study abroad program sponsored by the Irish American Cultural Institute. The program combines academic studies with touring the country as well as a week-long stay with an Irish family.
We do hope you will support the IADRF's efforts and purchase the CD for your own collection and perhaps several more to give as gifts. The cost is just $20 plus postage, which we think is very reasonable indeed. To order by phone, call toll-free 1-800-860-9499 or visit the IADRF site to order on line: Please click IADRF
*Many of the cuts on the CD can be briefly "sampled" on amazon. Here are the links to the cuts we found.
Cherish The Ladies
The Boys Won't Leave the Girls Alone
The Blue Idol
You can't hear the cut, but you can hear other samples on this great album.
Walls and Windows
Eileen Ivers & Immigrant Soul
So Like Joy
Mon, Dec 9, 2013
Holly and Ivy hanging up and
something wet in every cup*
Not so long ago, Irish Christmas decorations were much simpler than they are now. The children gathered holly and ivy for adorning, windows, doorways, mantles and pictures, and the father would carve out a turnip in which would be placed a large red candle. This would go in the window to light the way for the Holy Family on Christmas Eve. Only in relatively recent times did an Irish family have a Nativity scene and a decorated tree in the house. As for Mistletoe, it's quite rare in ireland and is generally associated with ancient Celtic and Druidic fertility celebrations; this is most likely where the custom of kissing under the mistletoe comes from.
*Old Irish Christmas toast
Image: Pashley Manor Gardens.
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