25 Years Of Celtic Music
Green Linnet Records, 2001
REVIEW BY: Duke Egbert
ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 03/21/2001
25 years ago, Wendy Newton got hooked on traditional Celtic music and started Green Linnet Records in the back of a house in New Canaan, Connecticut. With this one act, the entire history of Celtic traditional music in the United States was changed, and in many ways Green Linnet is solely responsible for the fact that you can find the stuff in record stores today. Earthshattering perhaps it wasn't, but groundbreaking it was, and it's hard to identify any other single label that has had such an effect on the American music scene.
I suppose it's only logical that Green Linnet decided to celebrate this occasion by bringing out a double disc of selected music from the label's history, much as they did to celebrate their 20th anniversary. (I have that disc too, and perhaps I'll review it here sometime.) And I admit to being glad they did. If you need a single disc to start on traditional Celtic music, this is the one you want to pick up.
Divided into two parts, this is really two CDs in one. The first disc, 1976-1996, covers Green Linnet's first twenty years with a sweeping summary of Irish, Scottish, Breton, and Galacian traditional music, as well as some more modern takes on older tunes. The selections are well-chosen, a nice variety of note-for-note authentic and more whimsical takes on the music. Special note should be taken of a few truly excellent tracks, most notably Phil Cunningham of Silly Wizard and his hook-laden "Ceilidh Funk" (1989), Altan's ethereal "Dulaman" (1993), and Kornog's "Ton Bale Mur Ha Dans", a rich Breton melody originally recorded live in 1983.
The second CD, 1996-2001, covers recordings made since the 20th anniversary collection, and it has some joys as well. These recordings contain many more less traditional elements, including the Romanian tinge on House Band's "Risipiti/Mairtin O'Connor" and the African percussion on Old Blind Dogs' "Forfar Sodger", but they all work. Of the more traditional melodies, Liz Carroll's "Lost In The Loop", Lunasa's "Autumn Child/Heaton Chapel", and the spine-tingling rich voice of Niamh Parsons singing "An Paistin Fionn" are highlights of a consistent and excellent look at both the changing face of Celtic music and of Green Linnet Records.
The production on the CD is excellent, the light touch needed for this sort of music evident throughout both discs. The clarity contrasts well with the unadorned style needed to not produce the life out of fiddle and pipes. On a minor but interesting note, the packaging is very attractive, distinctive and comprehensive with a track by track expanded listing of original recordings and artist mini-bios. A very minor argument; the tracks seem much closer together than on some CDs. I found myself referring to the display window on the CD player often, to make sure I knew what track we were on again.
If you buy a single CD of Celtic traditional music this year, make it this one. Celebrate the label that brought it to America, and enjoy this snapshot of the past and present. Here's looking forward to the six disc box set for the fiftieth anniversary.