So, here we have a very different situation than the past few posts have given us. This is an Irish musical group, founded in 1962. While not a part of our 2012 Grammys coverage, the band has already been nominated 18 times and won 6, so I think they're doing all right. BBC Radio 2 has even already given them a lifetime achievement award, but that was back in 2002, and 10 years later, they're still going.
This album serves to commemorate 50 years of making music together, and features collaborations (and who doesn't love those) with a ton of fantastic artists you never hear enough of.
No videos to share today because they're just not that kind of band.
For a full listen, check out this link to stream on Spotify.
Imelda May joins them for the lead track, "Carolina Rua/Reel - The Ladies Pantalettes." We start with a plesant little upbeat tune, full of the pipes and sweet beat I was promised in the wiki descriptions. Imelda adds this very light-hearted voice on a funny journey down the road. Seriously, if they don't skip down a small Irish path during this, they're hiding it well. There's nothing over-done, though nothing to write home about. It's just, simply, a good Irish pop song to get things started.
Remember Miranda Lambert? This past summer or so, she began working as part of a little three-girl group, Pistol Annies, and they join in for the second track, "Come All Ye Fair And Tender Ladies." Each girl gets her shot at bringing some true country sound to this Irish song, being accompanied by a nice flute and pipes throughout, just making for a very nice solemn track.
"Pretty Little Girl" picks the pace back up with none other than the Carolina Chocolate Drops. It's a great barn hoedown song, but this one's got a sweet Irish beat to it and some flair that makes it more than a banjo party by far - of course, there's no banjo, so far as I can hear. But there does seem to be a pretty full band taking on backing the one voice carrying the lyrics. The treatment of the words as she goes through is pretty interesting, almost modern-sounding.
Bon Iver, my not-so-favorite new artist, joins in to give a completely different sound to track four, "Down In The Willow Garden." What's interesting to this album so far is that some tracks sound like The Chieftains adjusted their sound to be like the guests', while some guests altered theirs to fit in with the main artist. Here, I would have thought it was the Irish-land inspired track from Bon Iver's latest album. Again, we're presented with voices to his tracks that drone on a bit, without much of a point or understandable mood. I'd get just as much if those were instruments instead of people.
"Lily Love" brings The Civil Wars back to my ears, yay! This is the first solid combination of sounds yet on the album. At the start, it's TCW all the way, but then this Irish pipe joins in to remind us there's a collaboration going on. In fact, the dark folk voices give a great compliment to the Irish rhythms and support the drums as they move along the road. It's a great mix of all things each group brings to the table, and this is one I would love to hear an entire album made out of.
I think we're in for something a little more classic-sounding with the next track featuring Punch Brothers. This one is "The Lark In The Clear Air / Olam Punch." The flute/pipe/not-sure-completely of what this is called, maybe a piccalo? at the beginning is just a gorgeous lead in to a song that takes on a pub sound. So I guess what it actually is for us is a lead instrumental into the song you hear later that night. Maybe I need to do more research on the Punch Brothers, because they sound like they're trying to fit into the Irish world for this one, but maybe that's their natural sound and I'm just off in my thinking. Wow, that was a run-on sentence.
"My Lagan Love" slows things way down to a lethargic tone with guest artist Lisa Hannigan. Aside from the pub song, this is probably the most classic country-specific song we've heard (I need new ways to say Irish). Her voice merely carries the tune over the hills through the breeze (like that metaphor?) and gives you something to meditate to.
The Decemberists (<3) join on in for "When The Ship Comes In." Another good combination track, I think. The Decemberists, though, are very good at adapting to different kinds of music. They've always been this impressive band to me, able to bring people into their music somehow, though never being at the fore-front of anyone's musical minds. Here, though, they give a fantastic performance with a nice message set to upbeat, enjoyable music. It's a great song on everyones' part!
"School Days Over" with The Low Anthem starts in one of my least favorite ways - with a kid chorus lead-in. I reserve the right to say I don't enjoy it because I was one of those kids at one point. Don't get me wrong, it's a lovely sound, and I like the concept, given the title. I'm just apt to not enjoy such a sound. Apologies to those that are. Otherwise, the song is light and lovely, especially musically, though the voice is nowhere near overwhelming. It's about moving on from the fun though, onto real life and work. If you're listening to this at the wrong time or mood, it can be quite depressing and sobering.
The Punch Brothers are back for "The Frost Is All Over." It almost sounds like it has trouble getting started, but things pick up for a happy little rhythm. There's even some Irish scat in there (though I'm pretty sure I just made up that phrase myself). It's got the sound of a classic, without loosing the pop sounds we were promised.
"Peggy Gordon" brings on female harmonies of The Secret Sisters. There's a really lovely way the notes fall at the end of, and even throughout, some lines. The movement in the notes is reminiscent, for me, of playing the piano and coming upon the little triplet groups that make for a pretty addition to the music that's unexpected. I barely paid attention to the lyrics and story here, but took the time to enjoy the melody itself.
Paolo Nutini brings a very highland-sounding voice to "Hard Times Come Again No More." There is a sound of winding down to this, as though it's the end of a night, or even a journey, we've been taking together throughout this musical experience. It's a gentle ending, yet a happy one that allows you to just lay your head back and relax for a change. The worst is over and there's a future, luckily. And it's ended by some glorious pipes - and yes, that's the only way I can adequately describe them.
The Chieftains are all alone!! "The Chieftains Reunion," by my guess, is meant to just be a celebration piece for 50 years of making music. The piece has movements to it - about every 30 seconds or so, we're enveloped in a different sounding combination of instruments and rhythms, varying from very classic Irish tunes to newer more abstract compilations. There's sounds of pipes, drums, and even harps, throughout. Really, it's just a great venture into all they're capable of.
"The Chieftains In Orbit" includes Cady Coleman, a Nasa Astronaut, who wanted to bring something of her Irish heritage to space with her. She did - and her story is set to their music. She brought an instrument from each of them up to space with her, and the remainder of the track if very simple little diddies played on each of them. It's a lovely little story that'll probably go largely untold, but we, luckily, got to experience for a minute here.
Carlos Nunez helps wrap us out with "Lundu." It's a much more pop based song than I think anything we've heard on the entire album. I'd venture to say there's a Latin influence on this song as well, almost as if two worlds are colliding. This is the one track I'd go ahead and call really cool, as it just gives this awesome beat to dance and jam to, in a way I don't think anyone would have been expecting. It has it's place, yet is so beyond what the entire rest of the album is like.
Added to my Playlist:
- "Pretty Little Girl"
- "Lily Love"
- "When The Ship Comes In"
- "Hard Times Come Again No More"
This was, quite simply, wonderful. It's nothing I would have ever picked up on my own, so I'm once again left grateful for my convictions and this blog. There's a variety while still being a greatly compiled album. Even if it's just as background music, I'd seriously suggest turning this on and getting taken away to the Irish countryside and pubs and everywhere in between.