A Thistle & Shamrock Christmas Ceilidh

A Thistle & Shamrock Christmas Ceilidh

Various Artists

Green Linnet

Anyone who’s a fan of Celtic music knows The Thistle & Shamrock, a National Public Radio show hosted and produced by Fiona Ritchie. On this CD, as the sticker on the front says, “Fiona Ritchie selects her favorite Green Linnet artists for the ultimate Celtic holiday party.” The key word there is “party” — most of these tunes are made for dancing, highlighting the holiday spirit of joyous celebration while steering well clear of the usual treacly sentimental songs.

Many of the big names in Irish and Scottish music are here, from Altan and Capercaillie to Cherish the Ladies and the Tannahill Weavers. All the tracks have been released before, but some a decade ago or more, so you’re almost guaranteed to find something new here unless your CD collection is as big as Fiona Ritchie’s. Chicago fiddler Liz Carroll delivers a fast n’ furious, clean as a whistle set from her latest CD, Lost in the Loop, definitely one of my top 20 Irish traditional CDs for the year. There’s a mighty offering from the Irish supergroup Lunasa, as well; these lads play so well together they put most other groups to shame, and the whistle duet here from Kevin Crawford and Sean Smyth is not to be missed.

New to me was the House Band, whose version of the “Happy One-Step / Green Willis,” with its lilting accordion, flute, and guitar, could make even the Grinch smile. Touchstone’s set also blew me away; Triona ni Dhomhnaill’s fine cruitchorda (sounds like a harpsichord) playing has a delicate Renaissance feel, while the bass lends enough darkness to keep the track feeling real and not too snow-squeaky-bright. Fans of Spanish music should check out the Galician legends Milladoiro (whose new CD, Auga de Maio, would also make my Celtic Top 20 for 2000); their harp, guitar, whistle, bodhran, synths, gaita (Galician bagpipes), and castanets whirl and skirl into a crazy but awesome set. Finally, for those more interested in Celtic rock, there are fine tracks from Wolfstone, Phil Cunningham, and Kips Bay, who deliver a raucous live version of the ceilidh classic “The Moving Cloud.” Nollaig Shona Dhuit!

Green Linnet Records, 43 Beaver Brook Rd., Danbury, CT 06810; http://www.greenlinnet.com

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