Various Artists

Ceili Time in Ireland

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Considered individually as performances, the music on this '50s compilation rates well above average. As a way of obtaining a representative volume of traditional Irish music, informatively presented, the neck will have to craned in order to even get a view of the bottom of the average platform. A balanced-out rating denoting "average" is reached by factoring in certain special aspects, such as the thrill of owning an album that has the word "authentic" printed, all upper case, in the left hand corner. The record label responsible for all this, with the full name of Triad Sound Laboratories, was taking a wee run with Irish as well as other styles of folk music in the '50s. Underneath the name and address of the label on the back cover is this slogan: "The World's Finest Authentic Folk Music." (This claim of "authentic" is in addition to the one previously described). John Healy, author of four paragraphs of liner notes, is identified as "Ireland's Favorite Music Critic." He doesn't say a word about any of the three bands featured. The combination of these groups on one album is evidence that split-disc compilations were alive and well decades before the punk and DIY aesthetic was identified. Ceili Time in Ireland, and recordings like it, could be facetiously said to have influenced punk in terms of getting right to the point. Each theme is played for an average of a minute, and the entire album is over in less than a half-an-hour, 26 songs later. This, however, does not make such a great impression as it does a documentation of a genre known for just the opposite: endless gigs, endless jam sessions, bands that will not stop playing, and a songbook in which there is no final page. Frugality, rather than brevity, seems to be the point here. In other words, this is a rip-off. Some of the goods are the real deal nonetheless. Actual field recordings of this genre from the '50s are featured. The McCusker Brothers -- there are said to be nine of them, all musically talented -- did indeed do recordings for musicologist Peter Kennedy in the summer of 1952. That groups resides in good old Kilcreevy, but "Recorded in Ireland" is as specific as the world's "finest authentic folk music label" is willing to get. The Ardellis Ceili Band has been active for half-a-century, and the seven-and-a-half minutes of music featuring this group were no doubt taped during the group's first decade of existence -- again, in the '50s.

The entire second side is devoted to the Emerald Ceili Band, a perfectly acceptable-sounding unit with instrumentalists who sound as if their fingers have been mechanically altered to fall into the patterns needed to make assorted reels and hornpipes sing. This combo name is as generic in traditional Irish music as the name "Joker" is in country-rock, unfortunately. Probably every county in Ireland has some kind of "Emerald Ceili Band" -- one of the best-known of these promotes themselves as being formed some 50 years after this album was released.

The short playing time and lack of intelligent presentation concerning the musical genre or musicians are not really drawbacks anyone seeking out traditional Irish music need to overlook; with plenty of material available, the shoddy Triad releases should be left to rot in the world's finest "authentic" freebie piles.