Wednesday, April 11, 2012


Irish traditionalists The Chieftains are known for their collaborations: most of their recent albums feature them collaborating with other artists.  Personally, I was turned on to them via their 1995 LP The Long Black Veil, which saw them working with the members of The Rolling Stones as well as Sting, Sinead O'Connor, Van Morrison, Mark Knopfler and Tom Jones.  I'd heard that their new album, Voice Of Ages, was going to be an album of tracks with "indie rock" artists, which didn't sound like a good idea to me. But it's not an accurate description of the album.

Yes, Bon Iver, The Decemberists and The Low Anthem appear on the album. (I really like The Decemberists' track, a cover of Dylan's "When The Ship Comes In.")  But it also includes some great artists, notably The Pistol Annies (Miranda Lambert's posse), The Civil Wars and Imelda May.

Most of the pairings work really well and connect the dots to show fans of the younger artists that traditional Irish music has influenced folk and country music.   And that's really what The Chieftains albums do best: use artists with different (and usually larger) fanbases to expose the beauty and power of traditional Irish music to a larger audience.

It's interesting that this album came out at the same time as The Hunger Games soundtrack, and both were produced by T-Bone Burnett (or as I sometimes call him, "Him Again"). And a number of the artists - including Carolina Chocolate Drops, The Civil Wars, The Decemberists, The Low Anthem, The Pistol Annies, The Punch Brothers and The Secret Sisters appear on both. I actually made an iPod mix combining songs from both. The albums are not interchangeable, but they work together as companion pieces: The Hunger Games has more of an Appalachian feel, while The Chieftains album is more Irish (obviously). But it does demonstrate the similarities of the music of American and Ireland and the timelessness of the music as well.

No comments: