The Chieftains are a living legacy, they are the most celebrated Irish band and have continued to push the frontier of Irish music way beyond expectations. Their latest offering ‘Voice of Ages‘ is, in our opinion, their best work to date. The album celebrates their 50th anniversary and what better way to do so then to collaborate with like-minded musicians and artists who are some of the most celebrated and visionary on the indie and folk scene.
Collaboration is not a new concept to The Chieftains who have worked with a long list of musicians in the past from The Rolling Stones to Joni Mitchell. They have an unmistakeable sound which is challenging to fit in with the roster of artists on this release: The Decemberists, Bon Iver, The Low Anthem, Lisa Hannigan, The Secret Sisters, Imelda May, The Civil Wars, Pistol Annies, Carolina Chocolate Drops, Paolo Nutini and Punch Brothers. The one exception is Carlos Núñez who has often been referred to as the 7th member of the band and who appeared on their Grammy wining Santiago album (RCA 1996). Of course with the well practised Paddy Moloney at the helm you know it won’t disappoint but add T Bone Burnett to the joint production front and there you have the magic and the making of a classic album!
As you’d naturally expect some tracks shine a lot brighter than others based soley on taste so there are some great contrasting tracks. The album kicks off with “Carolina Rua” featuring Imelda May and “Come All Ye Fair And Tender Ladies” featuring Pistol Annies. Both tracks share the familiar territory of the Transatlantic Sessions, a sound that has become familiar and warming with subtle cross overs between Britsh folk and American roots. Things begin to liven up with The Carolina Chocolate Drops and “Pretty Little Girl” before we get the first indie artist in the form of Bon Iver on the gentle “Down in the Willow Garden“. Bon Iver sounds at home singing along with Paddy Moloney’s lamenting Uilleann Pipes and I suppose this is not surprising when you trace the history of Irish and Scottish traditonal music and how it has helped to shape modern contemporary music, that’s part of the reason why they blend so well.
I wouldn’t fault any of the tracks on this album but there are some exceptional ones which deserve addtional credit. The standout track for me was Lisa Hannigan‘s performance of “My Lagan Love“. She can get inside a song and work her magic as she proved during a tribute concert to Nick Drake when she performed the highlight of the show: ‘Black Eyed Dog’ (video here). The Chieftains and guest artists seem at one with Lisa’s voice, Matt Molloy’s low flute notes, Fiachra Trench adding atmospheric ambience on keyboards and Triona Marshalls brightened accents on harp.
The Decemberists also shine through with “When the Ship Comes In” (Bob Dylan), a band that again seem to naturally combine forces with The Chieftains, this is a fast paced upbeat number that will quicken the feet as do the Punch Brothers on “The Frost is All Over“, tracks that are a must have on any Chieftains album.
Castle Park School Choir offer a great opening for the Low Anthem‘s cover of “School Days Over” (Ewan MacColl) on which Jocelyn Adams (Low Anthem) plays a great hammered dulcimer, a great moving track that will have you yearning for more, and more comes in the form of “Peggy Gordon” which The Secret Sisters shine through on.
Those seeking the keystone track that is always tucked away on their albums need look no further than “The Chieftains Reunion” a rousing track which clocks in at just over 11 minutes and features guest artists such as Tim Edey (guitar, accordion), the gorgeous Gaelic vocals of Alyth McCormack as well as a number of fine dancers!
A surpise track is “The Chieftains in Orbit“, courtesy of NASA astronaut Cady Coleman who took Paddy Moloney’s flute and tin whistle into space to perform this track, an unexpected twist.
Voice of Ages does not disappoint, it’s a rejoiceful album that sums up Paddy Moloney’s sentiment who had this to say about the album:
With 50 years of glorious music behind us I can think of nothing more exciting than to spend another 50 years collaborating with the best voices of the future.
This is a flawless album, as a good friend from Belfast used to say to me “It’s All Good!”
To celebrate this fine release Folk Radio UK have five deluxe copies of this album to giveaway which includes a DVD on the making of the album and a video for School Days Over with THe Low Anthem. All you need to do is sign up for our newsletter through which we will soon provide details on how you can enter. The newsletter will go out no sooner than 27th April 2012.
Voice of Ages is released today (April 23rd) via Concord