Alan Stivell

Brian Boru

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Alan Stivell's latest album is a journey into traditional Celtic music, adapted and arranged in settings ranging from soft folk-rock ("Ye Banks and Braes") to full electric band ("Brian Boru"), accompanied by a group that includes Maire Breatnach (vocals, fiddle), Ronan Browne (pipes, flute, whistle), Tracey Booth (vocals), Marc Chantereau (percussion), Guy Delacroix (bass), Jean-Jacques Hertz, Martin Meissonnier, and James Dollar (electric guitars). The effect is spellbinding, as polyrhythms intersect and interweave, electric guitars, harps, and pipes complement each other (most strikingly on the high-energy "Sword Dance"), and Stivell's vocals -- sounding like they come from a far and distant place -- carry the listener into new levels of musical creation and invention. Some of the music, such as "Let the Plinn," lacks much more than chanting and a vigorous percussion attack, but most of this album is filled with melodies that seduce and beguile the modern listener with amazing ease. Highlights include the dazzling title track, "Mna Na hEireann," and "Mairi's Wedding," the latter one of the most passionate rock-style songs Stivell has ever cut.

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