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World Music CD Reviews Celtic & Irish

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Altan
Local Ground
Narada

By Rob Weir

Published September 27, 2005

In the post-Riverdance era, temptations to wrap Celtic music in histrionic packaging abound. Mercifully, Altan has remained uncompromising in their devotion to their Donegal roots. Best of all, they do so without remaining static. Local Ground is actually the sextet’s most uptempo release to date. Anchored by the angelic voice of Mairéad Ní Mhaonaigh, even a melancholic song like “Adieu, My Lovely Nancy” is more sweet than bitter, and her bouncy rendition of “The Wind And The Rain” may well become definitive. Ní Mhaonaigh and Ciaran Tourish also provide patented Donegal dual fiddle magic and combine with accordionist Dermont Bryne to set down the melodic base from which fret wizards Mark Kelly, Ciaran Curran and Daíthi Sproule get funky and percussive. Their interplay allows for great complexity, which they demonstrate best on a set titled “Bó Mhín na Toitean,” in which there are three major tempo shifts. It just goes to show that it’s still the musicianship that matters, not the packaging. 

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