Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Tradish's "Beyond the Borders": Music Review.

This modest record by a trio sounds best when adapting traditional Irish and Scottish tunes. It covers selections from across the diaspora: Solas, Flook, the Child ballads, fiddlers John Canty, Michael Coleman and Paddy Killoran, flutist Michael McGoldrick, pipers Leo Rowsome and Willie Clancy, sean-nós singer Paddy Tunney. It also mixes Austrian waltzes, Bulgarian gypsy wedding tunes, and Danish adaptations of Irish music.

This array conveys the band’s mission to expand the “living tradition” beyond the Celtic fringe; its members played with Moving Cloud as well as the Danish folk scene. The inclusion of “The Blacksmith” evokes a soft rendition of this medieval English standard, with Louise Ring Vangsgaard’s vocals and fiddle blending smoothly. John Pilkington’s more mid-Atlantic accented voice does not dominate his guitar and bouzoki. This conveys the ambiance of an intimate session, but on record more projection in the production would have accented his presence better; his vocals on his self-penned, more mainstream folk songs underwhelm by comparison to the traditional selections which assert themselves more by merging his vocals into a more intriguing musical accompaniment beyond the singer-songwriter mode.

Percussionist Brian Woetmann’s song “Gypsy” serves as a lighthearted, if lightweight, pub tune. Overall, the promise of this recording lies in its instrumentation and concentration on the Celtic and European repertoire more than the original tunes, which fade by comparison. If Tradish directs its energies to more energetic selections that draw from their well-chosen predecessors and peers, their next recording may better play to the promise shown in the Irish-centered songs that work better here.

(I wrote this review for "CDRoots.com" and their "RootsWorld Bulletin" site, the great online magazine and store for world music.)

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