A great deal of today's Celtic music has ventured far from its roots, adding a wash of new age keyboards and heavenly harmony. Fortunately for hardcore traditionalists, singers and musicians like Andy Irvine stick closer to their acoustic roots. Even when Irvine writes his own songs, they retain a strong flavor of traditional music. Way Out Yonder is a lovely album comprised of a number of ballads and jigs, and filled with good singing and fitting arrangements. Irvine adds words to the "The Girl I Left Behind," a song of love, betrayal, and reborn love. An American version of this piece, "Forsaken Love," ends in suicide, so this more upbeat version, while still melancholy, is refreshing. "Gladiators" covers the biography of one Tom Barker, a radical union worker (a Wobbly) from Australia who fought against conscription during WW I. "They'll Never Believe It's True/Froggy's Jig" conjures up Irish folklore in the form of faeries dancing, while the title cut is a lively Bulgarian jig with some nice harmonica work by Brendan Power. Many of the songs on Way Out Yonder are long because Irvine likes to spin a yarn, and fortunately for the audience, he's good at it. The acoustic guitars and whistles underline the music perfectly. One instrument -- the harmonica -- sticks out as somewhat unusual in this setting. In fact, for the first few notes of "Gladiators," before Irvine's vocal kicks in, listeners may be under the impression that they had purchased a country & western album. Though Celtic harmonica may be unusual, it adds a nice touch and richens the musical stew. Irvine has crafted a solid album, respectful of its roots, and filled with fascinating stories. Way Out Yonder is a welcomed release and will be warmly appreciated by lovers of traditional Celtic music.
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AllMusic Review by Ronnie D. Lankford, Jr.