Ed Miller's, Sarah Dinan, the Blaggards, and Jolly Garogers
Reviewed by Margaret Moser, Fri., May 13, 2005
Ed Miller's Generations of Change (Wellfield) appeared last fall, a delicious taste of what was to come in the latest Celtic harvest. Teamed again with Rich Brotherton and longtime accompanists Brian McNeill and Pipo Hernandez, Miller weaves contemporary Scottish songs ("Ferry Me Over") with traditional ones (Robert Burns' "Green Grow the Rashes O") and a smattering of originals ("At Home With the Exiles"), creating a colorful sonic tartan. From the Ashes (Sassafras) is the striking and gorgeous debut from Sarah Dinan. Her sultry alto, so beautifully framed in a cappella on "The Hero's Return" and "May Morning Dew," first came to notice when she sang with Poor Man's Fortune several years ago. Dinan's touch in arranging tunes with guitarist Jeff Moore is as compelling as the choice of material; witness the refreshing arrangement of chestnut "She Moved Through the Fair," with bodhran urging fiddles into play. A hot contender for 2005 Top 10 lists. The Blaggards' debut Standards (NFA) is aptly named yet downplays their wonderfully exuberant, irreverent approach to well-known tunes such as "Foggy Dew" and "Rocky Road to Dublin." Thoroughly irresistible, the Houston quartet joins the ranks of kilt-wearing, ass-kicking Irish rockers willing to cross genres to get their point across, as on the fiddle-driven medley of "Folsom Prison Blues" and ever-moving "Fields of Athenry." Ten tunes leave the listener dying for more, like a pint of Guinness that's been shorted with too much foam. Okay, so it's stretching the definition of Celtic to include the Jolly Garogers. Austin's musical freebooters would be at home at any Ren or fantasy fair. Still, Lost at C Flat Sharp might shiver the timbers of the average harp-loving Celtic music fan because the Garogers wear their AC/DC loving hearts on their iron-banded sleeves ("Buccaneer's Bog," "Pie Hawking").