Celtic trio Chulrua celebrates the history of Ireland with both its music and its name. The band culled much of its repertoire from traditional instrumental dance tunes gleaned from the country's older generation of musicians. Its name, which is pronounced cool-roo-ah, was taken from the Irish Gaelic name of a wolfhound owned by Fionn MacCumhaill, an ancient hero. A literal translation of Chulrua is "red back," which was one of the wolfhound's distinctive features.
The trio is composed of Paddy O'Brien on button accordion, Pat Egan on vocals and guitar, and Timmy Britton on uilleann pipes, tin whistle, and wooden flute. In keeping with the tradition behind the music, they play and record in intimate spaces where the tunes originally were played, such as a pub or kitchen. They recorded their Barefoot on the Altar CD in a tiny church in Iowa. Most of the release's 17 songs are based on traditional numbers, such as "The Whinny Hills of Leitrim." O'Brien, of Ireland's County Offaly, devoted four decades to ferreting out rare stories and songs from the country's elder musicians and he received a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts to annotate hundreds of traditional dance songs. He is a champion of the prestigious Senior All-Ireland competition. Britton, who was raised in Philadelphia, is considered a master of the uilleann pipes. Egan, of Tipperary, is a 20-year veteran of the music business with a poignant style as an accompanist on the guitar.