(05 March 2000) The latest album from Ireland's premier Celticfolk band Altan is entitled Another Sky (Narada World (USA)72438-48838 2 9, 2000). The band is fronted by leadvocalist 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 mustpass if travelling from Malin Head to Crolly as we did severalyears ago enroute to Leo's Tavern.
Another Sky is clearly anchored in Irish music, however, the band is continuing to explore regionsoutside purely traditional roots. The booklet accompanying thecompact disc is especially well produced with song explanations,lyrics, translations and lovely photos. The band has an excellentwebsite which is a thoroughresource 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 traditionalinstrumentals, vocal ballads sung in Gaelic or English, either solo orwith 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 notagree 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 HumoursOf Whiskey," "The Dispute at the Crossroads / Columba Ward's /Siús Reel," "The Ookpik Waltz" and "The Waves Of Gola." Altan'sarrangements are traditionally rooted but contemporary in theirproduction 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)" perfectlyintroducing Mairéad's lead vocal work. The layers of backing vocalsadd a lovely texture to the track. "Green Grow the Rushes" and "Istland Girl" are lovely traditional ballads sung soloin English; the whistle melodies accompanying the vocals areespecially notable. The traditional Gaelic folk song "Eoghainín Ó Ragadáin" is sung sweetly light guitar accompanimentthroughout with additional instrumentation and lovely vocalharmonies during the choruses.
The folk songs "Ten Thousand Miles" and Bob Dylan's "Girl From The North Country" both have stunning lead vocal performances andinstrumental arrangements that perfectly support the lead. "TheVerdant Braes of Screen" is a lovely English ballad with a softlysoaring vocal part and a guest performance by Bonnie Raitt onslide guitar adding a unique texture to Altan's sound. The lastvocal track on the album is entitled "Tiocfaidh an Samhradh (Summer Will Come)." A Gaelic folk song accompanied by acousticguitar and piano, it is perfect illustration of the lead vocalist'srange, energy and total talent.
You can order Altan's Another Sky via amazon.comhere. Altan's latest album further explores their contemporaryarrangements of traditional pieces and moves into new directionswith guest performances and songs written by contemporary writers.Certainly worthy of further exploration by Celtic female vocalenthusiasts and tradtional instrumentals, the album is worthy ofa long distance journey and is a very nice listen!