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Another Sky CD Cover
Image © 2000 Narada World 
 

(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 Celtsreview) 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 agree more.

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!

 
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