Category: Archive

Trad Beat: Cherishing their roots

February 16, 2011

By Staff Reporter

By Earle Hitchner

AT HOME, by Cherish the Ladies, RCA Victor 09026-63377-2.

The musical talent of Cherish the Ladies didn’t develop in a hothouse. The sextet learned firsthand from family, friends, and beloved instructors, and those lessons were taken to heart.

On this, their sixth recording (apart from the collection "One and All") and second for a major label, the group again displays the joie de vivre for which they’re justly celebrated. On the opening set of reels, "Limerick Lassies/The Bird Feeder/The Bank of Ireland/Grampa’s Céilí Band," can be heard whoops of delight as the ensemble ratchets up their performance. Energy and feeling run high on that track, as they do on another medley of reels, "Harvest Moon/Eddy Moloney’s Reel/Martin With the Long Ears/The Tapas Reel," featuring guest fiddler Eileen Ivers.

A number of appealing original compositions attest to Cherish’s desire to extend the vitality of their tradition. Besides "Martin With the Long Ears" (Siobhan Egan) and "The Bird Feeder" and "The Tapas Reel" (Madden), there is a medley of jigs, "The Harbor Jig/The Falcon on the Hedge/Jack’s Morning Feast," written respectively by Egan, Madden, and Mary Rafferty (with Dónal Clancy). Pianist Donna Long contributes a pair of reels, "The Nightbird/Mystery’s Dance," and Madden and album producer Brian Keane together composed "The Waves of Kilkee" that she plaintively performs on tin whistle.

Aoife Clancy has a voice eminently suited to ballad singing. Her vocal resilience shines through on "Matt Hyland," "The Curragh of Kildare," popularized by Christy Moore 16 years ago, and "Is Fada Liom Uaimi Uaimi" ("I Long for Her"), which the Black brothers recorded four years ago and also learned from the singing of the late Eithne Ní Uallacháin.

Sign up to The Irish Echo Newsletter

Only "The Leader of the Band," a top 20 hit for singer-songwriter Dan Fogelberg in 1981, misses the mark. It’s an attempt by Cherish to take an American pop song and rearrange it with Irish traditional music (viz., the reel "Devaney’s Goat"). The result, however, is a forced musical marriage.

But that’s the only misstep on an album further distinguished by three tracks featuring family members. On the memorable "Father’s Day Medley," button accordionist Jim Coogan joins his banjo-playing daughter, Mary, with Joanie Madden’s brother, John, backing on bodhrán. They, in turn, are followed by Joanie on flute and her father, Joe, on button accordion. The Maddens are succeeded by the late great lilter from Galway, Paddy Rafferty, who is soon joined by his brother, Mike, on flute. With his daughter, Mary, on button accordion, Mike Rafferty then has a lash at "The Lads From Leitrim," and the track concludes with the various family members performing "The Bag of Spuds" along with the hard-shoe stepdancing of Donny and Eileen Golden.

"John of Dreams," a song combining a Tchaikovsky melody and Bill Caddick’s lyrics, showcases the singular voices of the Clancys: Aoife, her father, Bobby, her uncle Liam, and her brother Finbar, with her cousin Dónal accompanying on guitar. The final cut, "Gaelic Air/B Minor Reel/The Galtee Rangers/Sheehan’s Reel," also sports some family members: Donna and Byron Long on pianos, followed by Donna’s son, Danú fiddler Jesse Smith, who’s succeeded by Siobhan, Roryann, and Seamus Egan.

The various switching among family members within instrumental medleys is exhilarating, and to hear five Clancys collaborate on a song is a reminder of the enduring impact this family has had on Irish music during the past half-century.

This new album makes it easy to understand why lady luck plays no role in Cherish the Ladies’ global achievement. It comes instead from blood (family), sweat (hard work), and cheers (audience response). "At Home" is definitely something to cheer about.

Other Articles You Might Like

Sign up to our Daily Newsletter

Click to access the login or register cheese