November is here at last and soon the presidential election will be history. I, for one, will be happy to see the end of the campaign. Hopefully we’ll be able to get down to business and erase the mistakes of the last 8 years. I have no inside line on which way the voting will go but if the Irish and Scottish voters are any measure, Obama’s got it. At every festival this year, all I saw was Obama buttons, stickers, T-shirts and only one poor guy wearing a McCain shirt, but I knew him and he comes from money so there you are! I also heard from more Republicans who were fed up with their party and voting Democratic.
Enough politics. Politicians come and go but, thank heaven, our music is always here to salve our souls when the insanity of the everyday grinds raw spots. We have heard some very fine music these days. The yearly Celtic Classic held in Bethlehem, PA (last weekend in September) is usually good for some nice new music but this year there was a bushel of it. Even though it rained all three days, the folks who run the Classic prepare well for the rain and, being a free festival, the crowds show up. Seamus Kennedy is usually a fixture at Bethlehem and this year released his newest CD, Sailing Ships and Sailing Men. Featuring 19 sea songs in Seamus’ vibrant baritone, backed by an all-star cast of supporting musicians, this album takes its place in his collection of popular CDs.
All of Seamus Kennedy’s CDs come with a full lyric sheet, making it easy to sing along. I don’t think Seamus Kennedy has ever done a bad CD; we love them all and play them all.
At Bethlehem this year Seamus Kennedy came by to introduce us to a hot new singer on the circuit and we are ever so grateful that he did. Dave Rowe, of the Dave Rowe Trio and son of Tom Rowe of Schooner Fare was a real delight to meet and hear. Here’s a singer that has grown up immersed in the music with real talent to boot. He dropped off a couple of his CDs for us to listen to and we were blown away. New fresh and original arrangements of traditional songs. We find ourselves slapping them into the CD player on a daily basis. We will be stocking all five of Dave’s CDs in the store and hope to see him get some gigs in the Chicago area. Here’s a fresh face that can really perform.
One of the bands performing at Bethlehem this year, that was very well received by the crowds, was a band we haven’t seen much of in the states, Malinky. I was looking forward to seeing them since I’ve really enjoyed their three CDs, Last Leaves (their first), Three Ravens (their second) and The Unseen Hours (the most recent). Their lead singer, Mark Dunlop, had also recently released his first solo, Islands on the Moon, and it was a super effort, too. I should mention that, as with most great recordings from Scotland these days, the CDs were all released on Greentrax. As luck would have it, I never got to see them perform. Our helper at the show pulled up sick and I was stuck in the booth all day. I did get to meet Mark Dunlop, who stopped by the booth and showed that he is as gracious as he is talented. Had a wonderful chat and heard from many customers who did get to see Malinky perform. To a man (person?) they all enjoyed them immensely. I highly recommend Mark’s solo CD and the 9th cut on it, “The Quaker’s Song”, which is worth the price of admission.
Got a call a week or so ago from the wilds of Vankleek Hill, Ontario. It was my friend Neil Emberg, lead singer for the band Hadrian’s Wall. He let me know that the new CD was ready and asked if I wanted any. Naturally I said yes and he shipped them out. Well, I’ve got to tell you, I have enjoyed everything that Neil and Hadrian’s Wall have put out over the years but this is the best yet. Neil, along with having a great voice and a talent for guitar, pulls together some of the most innovative arrangements of traditional tunes that I’ve ever heard. The 14 tracks on this CD include such favorites as “Sound the Pibroch,” “Courtin’ in the Kitchen,” “You Couldn’t Have Come at a Better Time,” “She Moved Through the Fair,” all arranged in new ways that you’ll love. This kid is a genius, though I guess I should stop calling him a kid since he’s a dad now. He finishes up the recording with his original “The Underwear Song,” a fun tune that tells the joy of touring. At some shows now where Neil is well-known, folks pitch packages of underwear onstage when he performs this song. It has been my distinct pleasure to know Neil Emberg and Hadrian’s Wall for a long time and I can truly say that this is a band that just keeps getting better. One of my favorite fiddlers, Ashley MacLeod, now plays with the band and her unique talents definitely add to the bands rich sound. The rest of the crew are Dave Gossage on Irish flute, whistles, guitar, keyboards and harmonica; Jonathan Moorman, fiddle and bouzouki; Bill Gossage, double bass; Richard Irwin, backing vocals, drums, cajon, tambourine, bodhran and percussion. They’ve worked long and hard to achieve this sound and it’s a pleasure to hear them.
The World Pipe Band Championships have been released, as they usually are at this time of the year and contain, not surprisingly, the absolute best that the piping world has to offer. In case you hadn’t heard, Simon Fraser University took first, Field Marshall Montgomery second and Shotts was third. The competition was released, as usual, on three CDs, volume one has the first 6 bands in order, volume two has the next 7 bands and the qualifying heat has 14 other bands. The competition also is released on DVD. Well filmed and with excellent sound, the DVDs are also in volume one and two, with the same bands as on the CDs.
Cops in Kilts
Back to the Celtic Classic in Bethlehem PA where we’ve spent the last weekend in September for the last 21 years. This is a great festival in a great town. Bethlehem is a very beautiful city, historic and definitely worth a visit. One of the finest things about Bethlehem is their Police Department. Under the direction of Police Commissioner Randy Miller, the officers do a tremendous job of maintaining order in a most friendly and courteous manner. A few years ago Sergeant Scott Parry decided that he wanted to show off his Scottish ancestry by incorporating a kilt into his regular uniform. After clearing it with the chief, Sgt. Parry performed his patrol duty at the festival in kilt. It was a huge hit both with the people of Bethlehem and visitors to the Celtic Classic. As years passed, more officers joined Sergeant Parry in donning the kilt with their uniform. Now nearly half of the police officers patrolling the Celtic Classic are kilted. Sergeant Scott Parry retired this last year but still serves with the Bethlehem Police as a Chaplain, a kilted chaplain, of course.
Thanks to all my readers for your words of encouragement, thanks to Tom & CJ & the llamas for your hospitality and the beer. Slainte!
Contact me at Rampant Lion Celtic Traders, 47 S. Villa Ave., Villa Park, IL 60181 or call at 630-834-8108.