The Chieftains

The Chieftains 10: Cotton-Eyed Joe

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The repertory on this, the tenth official album by the Chieftains, ranges from Dublin to the Isle of Man to Brittany, and a final nod to Texas, of all places, with the title tune. Though it opens with a roll on the bodhran, the use of percussion on this album is more restrained and subtle than on many of the group's prior recordings -- until the Lone Star State-inspired finale, that is, which is a totally rip-roaring performance by all concerned (save perhaps harpist Derek Bell -- there's only so much a harp can do in a square dance setting). The fiddles and pipes dominate much of the sound on this album, but Bell's instrument gets in its moments of lush enhancement, especially on "Manx Music," and there's also the rare treat here of a vocal performance, courtesy of Kevin Conneff on the boisterous "The Pride of Pimlico." This was to be the last free-standing Chieftains record for much of the next decade or more -- the next few releases by the group were to be hooked around soundtrack work, live documents of specific tours, and then concept albums, often involving guest artists. In that sense, though few fans could have known it at the time, it marked something of the end of an era for the group. And, like a lot of their early albums, this release faded in prominence next to the heavy promotion that those soundtracks, concept albums, and international "event" albums received over the decades to come. Finding this or their other early material became a challenge, but a highly rewarding one for those willing to make the effort. In this instance, the haunting textures and tunes of "Au Durzhunel (The Turtle Dove)" was practically worth the price of admission by itself.

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