Pan-Celtic Hybrids

For those listeners who would like to experience a wide intinerary in a single sitting, there are good multi-cultural compilations available. However, these should ideally be used as a quick wade before diving in, or to collect rarities unavailable anywhere else.

"Celtic Tides" (Putumayo) is heavily Scots-Irish in its focus, but includes a few Cape Breton tracks, such as Ashley MacIsaac's rip-roaring account of "Sleepy Maggie". On "Dublin To Dakar" (Putumayo), Celtic, Asian, Scandinavian and African-derived sounds blend, clash and collide. It may be conceptually contrived, but it is also consistently engrossing. "The Celtic Lullaby" (Ellipsis Arts) is an unadulterated pleasure, drawing on artists from Wales, Isle Of Man, Ireland, Scotland, the United States, and New Zealand. It's soothing but too engaging to be effective as a soporific. On "A Celtic Christmas" (Saydisc) all six Celtic nations are represented, including the rarely heard traditions of Cornwall. This is one of the best compilations of its kind, with nearly 74 minutes of music performed by Robin Huw Bowen and colleagues. Harp fanciers will enjoy Carol Thompson's elegant "The Enchanted Isles" (Dorian), which includes tunes from Ireland, Scotland and the UK, but also a bumper crop of well-known Welsh melodies. She performs on the triple, neo-Celtic and pedal harps, so the program is as varied as it is well played. On "La Traversée" (Lyrichord) singer and folklorist Sandra Reid follows the trail of Breton and French settlers in North America, from earliest colonial times to the present, and it is a fascinating and instructive travelogue.

"Excalibur -La Legende Des Celtes" (Sony France) is a large-scale opus - a huge rock cantata composed by Alan Simon and based on King Arthur And The Knights Of The Round Table. It features a cast of well-known figures from French, Breton, Galician and British folk circles, such as Tri Yann, Gabriel Yacoub (Malicorne), Fairport Convention, Dan Ar Bras, Carlos Nunez, Nikki Matheson, plus the entire Prague Symphony Orchestra. The result is either grandly conceived or overblown, depending on the subjective taste of the listener, but there is no doubt that it is a valiant attempt.

More Pan-Celtic Explorations

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