(05 March 2000) The latest album from Ireland's premier Celtic
folk band Altan is entitled Another Sky (Narada World (USA)
72438-48838 2 9, 2000). The band is fronted by lead
vocalist and band co-founder Mairéad Ní Mhaonaigh (also featured
in the compilation Faire Celts—review)
and hails from county Donegal, home of Enya, Clannad and other
Celtic artists. Her husband and Altan co-founder passed away
in 1994. The band is named after Loch Altan, by which one must
pass if travelling from Malin Head to Crolly as we did several
years ago enroute to Leo's Tavern.
Another Sky is clearly anchored in
Irish music, however, the band is continuing to explore regions
outside purely traditional roots. The booklet accompanying the
compact disc is especially well produced with song explanations,
lyrics, translations and lovely photos. The band has an excellent
website which is a thorough
resource worthy of further exploration by Celtic music enthusiasts.
Full details of the band members and their contributions can be
read there. Interested visitors will find that Narada's Altan
web page contains the label's perspectives and several short
soundbites from the new album.
Another Sky's thirteen lovely tracks consist of traditional
instrumentals, vocal ballads sung in Gaelic or English, either solo or
with harmonies. Instrumentation is largely traditional
—including twin fiddles, accordion and bouzouki, for example—but
arrangements are occasionally quite contemporary. The vocal work is
consistently stunning—Narada calls it transfixing and we could not
The album's instrumentals include the medleys "The King of
Meenasillagh / Lamcy's / The High Fiddle Reel," "Gusty's Frolicks /
Con's Slip Jig / The Pretty Young Girls Of Carrick / The Humours
Of Whiskey," "The Dispute at the Crossroads / Columba Ward's /
Siús Reel," "The Ookpik Waltz" and "The Waves Of Gola." Altan's
arrangements are traditionally rooted but contemporary in their
production and delivery. Donal Lunny contributes keyboards to
"The Waves Of Gola."
The album opens with a traditional Gaelic vocal entitled
"Beidh Aonach Amárach (There's a Fair Tomorrow)" perfectly
introducing Mairéad's lead vocal work. The layers of backing vocals
add a lovely texture to the track. "Green Grow the Rushes"
and "Istland Girl" are lovely traditional ballads sung solo
in English; the whistle melodies accompanying the vocals are
especially notable. The traditional Gaelic folk song
"Eoghainín Ó Ragadáin" is sung sweetly light guitar accompaniment
throughout with additional instrumentation and lovely vocal
harmonies during the choruses.
The folk songs "Ten Thousand Miles" and Bob Dylan's "Girl From
The North Country" both have stunning lead vocal performances and
instrumental arrangements that perfectly support the lead. "The
Verdant Braes of Screen" is a lovely English ballad with a softly
soaring vocal part and a guest performance by Bonnie Raitt on
slide guitar adding a unique texture to Altan's sound. The last
vocal track on the album is entitled "Tiocfaidh an Samhradh
(Summer Will Come)." A Gaelic folk song accompanied by acoustic
guitar and piano, it is perfect illustration of the lead vocalist's
range, energy and total talent.
You can order Altan's Another Sky via amazon.com
here. Altan's latest album further explores their contemporary
arrangements of traditional pieces and moves into new directions
with guest performances and songs written by contemporary writers.
Certainly worthy of further exploration by Celtic female vocal
enthusiasts and tradtional instrumentals, the album is worthy of
a long distance journey and is a very nice listen!