Celtic Reflections

John Whelan

Narada Lotus LC 6362

Narada Media
4560 North Port Washington Road
Milwaukee, Wisconsin 53212-1063

A review written for the Folk & Acoustic Music Exchange
by Kerry Dexter

This is an album of reflective, meditative tunes played on...the accordion? Yes, the Irish button accordion, to be precise, with which John Whelan has won prizes both his native Ireland and his adopted homeland, the United States. If you're used to the lively contest and bar room image of the squeezebox, though, think again. On his debut album for Narada, John Whelan explores other dimensions of the instrument.

There are a dozen Whelan originals here, as well as two pieces by keyboard player Kinny Landrum. They comprise a variety of lovely melodies, by turns haunting and lilting, in keeping with the Celtic nature of their inspiration. The time hallowed Irish subject of search for homeland is explored in Longing for Home, Longing for Here and Sacred Ground. Scots and Breton areas of the Celtic world are referenced in Trip to Skye, Cape Finisterre, and Breton Gathering. "This album is a personal journey through the different phases of my life," John Whelan explains, "reflecting my musical interests and influences. It's also about that 'misty-eyed morning' [the album's subtitle] that we all sometimes wake to, a time to reflect on how precious life is."

In addition to Landrum, guest musicians include players well known on both sides of the Atlantic. Among them are Pat Kilbride of the Battlefield Band, Lisa Gutkin, who has played with the Baltimore Consort, and Jay Ungar and Molly Mason, widely known for their work on the soundtrack to the documentary series The Civil War.

It is Whelan's playing and melodies which form the heart of these songs, however. On these compositions, John Whelan's accordion sounds almost like the haunting music of the pipes from some ancient past arising from that morning mist, inviting the listener to reflect and dream along with the players.

Copyright 1997 Kerry Dexter, and copyright 1997 Peterborough Folk Music Society.
This review may be reprinted with prior permission and attribution.

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