If you doubt the ability of Celtic music to rock, Ireland's Lunasa
will transform you into an arms-waving, "Hallelujah!"-shouting
believer. For those straitlaced trad-heads who decry the
hybridization of Celtic into new-agey slush (a la Enya) or
frenzied acid raves (a la Shooglenifty), Lunasa offer
reassurance that innovative music can still arise from respecting
Five enormously talented musicians, Lunasa have roared through the
otherwise staid U.S. Celtic music scene like a tricked-out Harley
hog. Their near-legendary album Otherworld became the
best-selling non-vocal Irish album in their label's history.
Grueling tour schedules ensured that the boys would reach every nook
and cranny of Celtic fandom, leaving in their wake standing ovations
from coast to coast. So, how do you top such success? With more of
the same, of course.
The Merry Sisters of Fate finds the lads in razor-sharp form;
sharper, perhaps, than the group assembled to record
Otherworld. The permanent addition of touring uillein piper
Cillian Vallely to the fold has anchored the group's sound. Flanked
by fiddler Sean Smyth and flutist Kevin Crawford, the melodic flights
on Merry Sisters are tighter, juicier and often painfully
beautiful. The bedrock rhythm section of acoustic bassist Trevor
Hutchinson (from The Waterboys) and guitarist Donogh Hennessey
continues to lay down a roiling, pulsing groove over which the others
The band has widened its sonic palette a bit, with the addition of
two songs comprising tunes from the Celtic "nations" of Galicia and
Brittany. And the careful use of non-traditional instruments such as
clarinet, piano and slide guitar complements the overall effect of
their compositions. In addition, some original tunes speak not only
to Lunasa's ingenuity, but also to their love of the music.
Regardless of origin, each track shimmers with a spark of musical
genius. Trevor's ominous, choppy bowed bass on "Morning Nightcap,"
the staggered counterpoint notes from Kevin's flute on "Aoibheas" and
the solemnly pristine harmonies on the slow air "Paistin Fionn" are
merely peak moments from a wonderful album that dwells in the clouds
from start to finish.