Certainly people's passion for Celtic music need not be tied to its rich heritage, but heard in the context of a story recounting the indomitable Irish spirit, it comes alive in unique ways. This beautiful mix of celebratory and meditative pieces chronicles the story of the Irish exodus to North America in the wake of the deadly potato famine in the mid-1800s. Spirited jigs and reels and haunting ballads reflect the mix of sadness and hope felt by the people on the boats seeking a better life. Eight of the nine tracks are medleys of mostly traditional passages, with project leader Will Millar (formerly of the Irish Rovers) composing pieces like "The Great Hunger," "Empty Fields," and "The Deserted Village." The opening tunes feature traditional Irish whistles, fiddle, harp, Uillean pipes, and hammer dulcimer. The opening suite, "Passing of the Gael," has a mystical solemnity to it, while "Farewell to Erin" moves from a mournful, fiddle-driven folk piece into something a bit more optimistic. Intense percussion and feisty whistles mark the dawn of the brighter day called "A Spirit Unbroken." "Ships Are Sailing" is a sparsely arranged ode to joy featuring whistle, fiddle, and dulcimer. Millar adds whistle lines, goat-skin rhythm, mandolin, banjo, and lute. Horn's flute has been a mainstay of new age world music for years and makes for a happy companion here as well. This would all be just a very engaging Celtic listen if not for the very detailed liner notes, which offer rich historical context and the visual and spiritual setting for each tune. The journey is beautiful, a true testament to the best in human achievement and hope.
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AllMusic Review by Jonathan Widran