Over the years, Dublin legends The Chieftains have taken on some impressive projects and this is one of the them. Up there with the best they have done. In the past Paddy Maloney and the boys have recorded with country, folk, blues, rock, pop and South American acts —as the likes of Sting, Mark Knopfler, Mick Jagger, Ry Cooder, Sinead O’Connor, Ricky Skaggs, John Hiatt, Tim O’Brien, Los Lobos, Van Morrison and a host of others have shared a recording studio with the ensemble.
“We got our voice from the voices of others….it was incredible to be able to work with Paddy in the studio and track a song which has as much resonance today as it did when it was first written.” Remarks Decemberists act, Colin Meloy (vocals, acoustic guitar) on their inclusion on the fabulous project. Where each and every act is allowed to express themselves and at the same time dovetail with the Irish ensemble and who would have thought they could have made such a great job of restyling Bob Dylan’s ‘When The Ship Comes In’. But they did! Just as Paddy and the boys have taken traditional Irish music to some of the greatest theatres and music halls in the world in sharing music original performed in kitchens, living rooms and the back rooms of bars and handed down from one generation to the next.
After 50 years in the business the boundary spanning act, who have performed for leaders of countless nations and seen countless inspired by their playing of traditional Irish music as way of celebrating the fact decided to have an exciting brand of new acts join them. Ever creating the innovative driven Maloney (tin whistle, Uilleann pipes) with fellow members Kevin Conneff (bodhran, vocals), Matt Malloy (flute) and Sean Keane (fiddle) have never sounded better. As for those joining the influential act you have such exciting acts as the Carolina Chocolate Drops, rockabilly act Imelda May, The Decemberists, The Civil Wars, Bon Iver (Justin Vernon), The Secret Sisters, The Low Anthem, Punch Brothers, Pistol Annies (American female vocal trio) and from the current Irish and Scottish folk scene, respectively Paolo Nutini and Lisa Hannigan. While by way of a bonus track, Carlos Nunez (Galician pipe, whistles) who I recall tearing the house down at the Cambridge Folk Festival a few years ago through his dynamic work. Plus you have The Chieftains Reunion track with Sean Potts and Michael Tubridy plus genial harpist, Triona McCormack perform throughout as such fellow musicians as David Hidalgo, Arty McGlynn, Dennis Crouch, Jim Keltner, Gregory Leisz and Colin Linden (with the Carolinas) drop by to add ‘icing’ to a cake most worthy on celebrating a 50 year run.
As for star tracks that is another thing. For not only is there too many to list in detail but even those I was taken to first (and more) time around I have since warmed to, as in the Secret Sisters working of ‘Peggy Gordon’. For some reason I just didn’t get it at first, maybe it was because I was so blown away by the work of the aforementioned Decemberists, the incredibly creative Chris Thile’s band The Punch Brothers or the wondrous tones of Imelda May and Lisa Hannigan on ‘Carolina Rua’ and ‘My Lagan Love’ respectively. “The School Day’s Over’ has the Castle Park School Choir lead Low Anthem into the moving Ewan MacColl tale of coal mining, and Ben Knox Miller handle the song with cool aplomb. Sublime! It has a couple that run it close in ‘Pretty Girl’ (with the ever exuberant and hugely talented Rhiannon Giddens led, Carolina Chocolate Drops —the marrying of the two acts music swings like crazy) the Civil Wars (Joy Williams and John Paul White) with the one and only original composition on the T Bone Burnett, Maloney production, ‘Lily Love’. Sounding like it was written 100 years ago it fits like the proverbial glove. While Nutini's singing of ‘Hard Times Come Again No More’ is as good as it gets regards covers of the much travelled song
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