A review for the Folk & Acoustic Music Exchange
I'm always curious about a new Irish group that has a traditional yet refreshing sound. Colcannon's release, Athens Hotel (Oxford Road Publishing ORP 201-CD), astonished my inquisitive nature when I discovered that the group hails from the rocky coastline of Colorado.
Colcannon consists of six members, the first being the only native Irishman: Mick Bolger (lead vocals, bodhran, cornet), Mike Fitzmaurice (acoustic bass and harmony), Doug Berch (mountain and hammered dulcimers, melodeon, whistle), Rod Garnett (flutes, fife), Jean Harrison (fiddle, accordian, harmony), and Larry Worster (guitar, harmony). These musicians and their accompanying instruments create a diversion from the Celtic norm without losing the essence of the traditional sound.
Athens Hotel is made up of thirteen tracks and comes in at just under 46 minutes. It opens with "Newry Highwayman", a traditional ballad. "The Red Kite" is a light air that begins simply but develops into a wonderfully complex toe-boucing concert. The title track (written by Harrison and Berger) opens with a Salvation Army brass band sound, setting the song's mood regarding the well-told plight of the homeless. "Sister Josephine" follows as a much more upbeat and jovial English tune. Next is a fine selection of reels that leads into "Nancy Spain", a beautiful song made famous by Christy Moore and sung in wonderful harmonic combination by Mick and Jean. "Stella Maris" is a relaxing instrumental with a Breton feel. "The Gentleman Soldier" is a familiar subject matter ballad - namely the soldier and the maiden. "The Streets of Our Town", written by Jean and Mick, is my favorite piece. It talks and breathes of a person's personal heritage as a sacred and stable portion of his/her personality - a great piece to have on during rush hour traffic. "Ben's Two Step/Jumping Ship" brings in Ron Miles and Bill Stanley on trumpet and trombone and giving this instrumental an unusual twist. "Crooked Jack" highlights Mike's acoustic bass as well as Mick's touching voice. "Cad ‘ Sin Don T‘ Sin" slips between Gaelic and English with the album's producer, Tim O'Brien (of "Oh Boys" and "Molly" fame), lending his mandolin talent. The finale is the "Glenveagh Medley" demonstrating the subtle beauty, once again, of the magic of acoustic guitar and bass interlaced with some fiddle and bridged with a solo bodhran (aka a Celtic "In-a-Gadda-Da-Vida") culminating with the whole band coming forward to a fullfilling sendoff.
Colcannon represents a promising new breed of Celtic music with original material that should be readily accepted by traditional style lovers. I highly recommend this fine album. Since they are on a small independent label, your local CD store may not normally stock it. If that's the case, ask them to special order it. It'll be worth the wait.