Since my residence in these cyberpages, and the wealth of superb folk / bluegrass / country / etc. materials I've been encountering: 1) I'm coming to deepen my appreciation for the roots musics I've always had a pronounced taste for, and 2) am now convinced that the primest genre materials do not exist at all in the mainstream but rather in the indies. Celtic music has always been difficult for me, despite an Irish background (which, as an anarchist, I don't place much store in anyway), though a number of CDs have been indicating a re-think, most especially after hearing Sliotar's unbelievable new disc (here). That CD, and the spate of A-1 folk, bluegrass, and other discs may well be the key I needed to finally access this musical style properly. Thus, the vacation I've been on—from reviewing jazz, neoclassical, avant-garde, and progrock musics—has proven to be a surprise never expected. I thought I was just sidetripping again.
I say all this because, without that recent history, I'd never have properly appreciated this disc, which is a great blend of Pete Seeger, Woody Guthrie, Utah Phillips, the Chieftains, and trad Gaelic airs. Tommy Sands has been highly regarded for some time now, lauded by homeland and worldwide critics and musicologists, and this CD makes the reasons behind that quite evident. Not only is Sands a gentle bard and critic of man's ways but an irresistable writer of songs that sound as classic as Danny Boy—in this case especially Send for Maguire.
That song derives from Sands' father, a fiddler, one time very ill, saying to his family: "It's too late for the doctor, send for Maguire!", a renowned musician. Ah, just a story, you may be thinking, but, no, Sean Maguire, a legendary champion fiddler, was indeed sent for, showed up, and played through the night. When the sun showed its sleepy face the next morning, Mr. Sands sang out "I'm better than ever I was!" and recovered. Not hard, then, to see how son Tommy came to be what he is…and he's done his father proud. The guest fiddling on the cut is superb and multiple requests for clarification from the label failed to elicit a response, but it's either Sands' daughter Moya or Sean Maquire himself playing, as the legendary musician is noted in the liner notes.
Moya and Sands' son Fionan join their dad throughout this disc, Moya on fiddle and vocals, Fionan playing banjo and mandolin (and backing vox), but this is not just a family notion, as Sands strongly believes in the power of inclusion on all levels, This rings throughout all his gentle songs, protesting violence and ignorance, urging understanding and closeness…as well as the joy of kicking your heels up every so often. Let the Circle be Wide is folk music through and through, gorgeously recorded, quite Irish but also distinctly global in its common concerns and sympathies for the land, for the oppressed, and for justice and life.
Edited by: David N. Pyles
Copyright 2009, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
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