Bill Whelan

The Roots of Riverdance

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The increased popularity of Celtic music in the late '90s/early '00s gives purists cause for concern, which is why some Irish music lovers may have divided feelings on this lively CD from Bill Whelan, who composed the music for Riverdance. It's not that the songs aren't impressive or dynamic in scope -- the better songs here rank among the best modern Celtic compositions to date -- but several songs find Ireland's grand musical traditions being watered down for easier consumption. The more minimalist songs work best, and when talents like uilleann pipe master Davy Spillane, bouzouki virtuoso Andy Irvine, and fiddler Eileen Ivers start interweaving melodies, the effects can be chilling. But it's also hard to deny the bombastic effectiveness of a song like "The Countess Cathleen." When traditional musicians, full orchestra, and Riverdancers start turning up the heat, even purists will find it impossible to keep their feet from tapping.

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