The Best of Altan

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If you don't count the Chieftains, Altan is probably the most popular traditional Irish group in the world right now. And they continue to find favor among hardcore folkies where the Chieftains don't, since they resist the temptation to record albums with the likes of Roger Daltrey and Van Morrison. The band originally formed around the husband-and-wife nucleus of flutist Frankie Kennedy and fiddler/singer Maighread Ní Mhaonaigh, who recorded their first album in 1983. Other members joined the group over time, until it gradually hardened into the five-piece ensemble that is responsible for most of the music on this timely retrospective, which draws on the five Altan discs that have appeared on the Green Linnet label. All have been distinguished by exceptional energy and musicianship, and while some listeners will disagree with one or two programming choices, the selections here are all excellent; Ní Mhaonaigh's sweet singing is always a special highlight. Best of all, the first pressings include a bonus disc of live recordings -- a poignant addendum, given the tragic death of Frankie Kennedy from cancer in 1996. Very highly recommended.

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