A Winter's Tale
Celtic Heartbeat Records, 1993
REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen
ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 11/06/1998
I don't know why, but I've always been a sucker for Irish and Celtic music. There is something about their style of music that just enraptures my soul and makes me smile. Well, all except for one disc of Irish music that my dad borrowed from my Mom - he should have known what was coming because of the layers of dust on the jewel case. Did you know what a microwave does to a CD? ( Kids, do not try this at home. )
So it's no surprise then that I would be drawn to the recently released collection A Winter's Tale. But this is not your Celtic music of old; this collection of thirteen songs (11 of which are new recordings) has more than just a touch of modern flavor added to it. It's not a difficult adjustment to make, even if you're a diehard follower of Celtic music - and for the rest of us, it's just plain enjoyable.
For many people, there might be a cultural gap you'll have to bridge in order to truly appreciate this type of music. At least one song is delivered in Gaelic ("Realtai" by Liam O'Connor and Lisa Aherne), but if you focus in on the delivery of the music, a language that might be foreign to many ears will become part of the natural rhythm of the song.
For others like myself, they will have to break free of the idea that A Winter's Tale is a Christmas album. Fact is, it's not at all close to that genre, although the songs have something to do with the winter season in some way, shape or form.
What A Winter's Tale is best noted for are two things. The first is the ability to tell a powerful story through the medium of a song. Whether it is the sad story of a boxer who had everything but a title ("The Contender" by Jimmy MacCarthy) or the tale of the opening of Ellis Island to those fleeing famine in Ireland ("Isle Of Hope, Isle Of Tears" by Dolores Keane & Sean Keane), or it's just lamenting the loneliness one feels while a loved one is away ("Endless Winter" by Briege Murphy), the stories that are told within this album rival any that you could read in a book. I tend to think that delivering them in the guise of a song makes them that much more powerful.
The second thing that this album is best noted for is the solid musical performances contained therein. Tracks like "Angel Dream" (Eimear Quinn), "Sliabh Sneachta (The Snowy Mountain)" (Altan) and ""The Emigrants Farewell, The Bison Polka" (Dervish & Vassen) all help to bring Celtic music into the '90s without sacrificing any of the beauty that the music's past contains. (It is interesting to note that "Angel Drem" is actually a composition by Tom Petty.)
When you want a break from the same old same old that makes up what you hear on the radio and you want to be transported into the snow-covered landscape that is Eire, A Winter's Tale may well be the best disc to take you there faster than the Concorde.