Various ArtistsCeili 2003
A review written for the Folk and Acoustic Music Exchange
Displaying an absolutely phenomenal depth of musicianship, Transatlantic Sessions is the product of a nearly flawless collaboration of the best Irish, Scottish, and American traditionalists in the world today, all taking turns backing each other up and trading songs. Being the brainchild of Shetland fiddler Aly Bain and dobroist Jerry Douglas, eclecticism abounds, with elements of bluegrass, country, Cajun and Celtic all presented at various times.
Drawing on the tremendous instrumental strengths of those invited, Ricky Skagg's Simple Life is expertly redone with the Celtic touches of Iain MacDonald's pipes and Aly Bain's gorgeous fiddle work. Nanci Griffith's Always Will stays closer to the original, though boasting the backup vocals of Skaggs and Sharon White, as well as the outstanding guitar work of Russ Barenberg. Radney Foster's Nobody Wins is presented with such grace that it takes on a whole new relevance, as does Trouble in the Fields featuring Maura O'Connell on vocals. The Carter Family classic Storms Are On The Ocean might not be as achingly beautiful as the original, but Sharon White more than does the tune justice.
Many moods are represented here, from the stark presentation of Roseanne Cash's September When it Comes to the tragically satirical rendition of Paul Brady's Marriage Made in Hollywood. The joyously enthusiastic vocals and lively fiddle playing of Micheal Doucet on the Cajun influenced La Danse De la Vie make for one of the most upbeat numbers on the collection.
Of course, what sets this collection above most others is the sheer magnitude of the musicianship. Aly Bain's fantastic fiddle playing on Waiting For the Federals, Breda Smyth's whistle playing on Bachelor's Walk, and the Jerry Douglas-lead mini-epic Tribute to Peader O'Donnell live up to the hype one might expect from this collaboration.
Though the fifteen tracks here represent only a small portion of the much lauded seven hour BBC series, this collection of highlights is well worth your while with not an awkward moment present. In the end, Transatlantic Sessions delivers with no egos trying to hog the spotlight, but rather a group of like-minded professionals creating a truly landmark collaboration. In short, fans of Irish, Scottish and American traditional folk music will find something here to justify making this part of their collection.
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Edited by: Mark J. O'Donnell