Music Reviews

The Chieftains

Down the Old Plank Road:: The Nashville Sessions

RCA / BMG

After 40 years of making Celtic music, The Chieftains are inexorably tied to the tin whistle and Irish drum sound. That’s about one half of the ethnic roots to Appalachian blue grass and the “country” half of country & western music. As time progressed, The Chieftains have conquered their early sound territory, and thought a combination of musical skill and sheer niceness; they’ve become friends with just about anyone of any musical stature in the business today. On this “Best of Our Friends” style sampler, the Chieftains play with some of the biggest names in country today. The result is a fine collection of songs that sound like country & western did back when rockers and cowboys did NOT get along. Opening the disk is a foreswearance of demon rum, “Down the Old Plank Road” put together with the support of John Hiatt, Bela Fleck, Jeff White and Tim O’Brien. Later on, Earl Scruggs joins for the bouncy “Sally Gooding,” and Vince Gill sings on the mournful “Dank as a Dungeon,” a great song about the miseries of mining for a living. Ricky Skaggs adds to the clean version of an old reel “Cindy,” and even Lyle Lovett chimes on “Don’t Let Your Deal Go Down.”

Overall, it’s a bit of an evolution for The Chieftains. The sound is no longer completely Irish, but more of where Irish music headed after the migration from the Emerald Isle to the new world. It’s slick and smooth as one would expect from these masters of arrangement, and the sound carries the country and gospel feel of people who had to work for a living and wore hats to protect their heads, not to indicate what genre of music they played. And, like real country music, it’s an album with sad songs about bad things happening to good people. And that’s a Good Thing.

The Chieftains: http://www.irish.com/


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