Wednesday, May 28, 2008

[225] CD Review: Smithfield Fair 20 for 20 (Stevenson Productions)

Performing Celtic music is tricky business. Keeping tight to traditions can isolate you; too much mucking around can send you into spa-music territory. Even the term “Celtic” is contentious. Baton Rouge’s Smithfield Fair has been traveling the world for two decades now, mixing the right amount of highland traditional sound and modern folk reinterpretation, and their journey is lovingly captured on their retrospective disc, 20 for 20. They have bagpipes and thudding bodhrán, spirited tales of bonny lasses out on the moors and windswept circadian guitars throughout the 20 songs here, but Smithfield Fair is more in line with groups like Fairport Convention and Pentangle, who use those traditions as a springboard for their own expression as they do in intricate numbers like “Back Where We Belong” and “Catriona.” In other words, they manage to do Celtic folk right without sounding corny. While there is no mistaking the inspirations for these songs, Smithfield Fair continues to follow those timeworn roads to places all their own.

Recommended if you like: Steeleye Span, Thistle & Shamrock, James Galway

Essential tracks:“Catriona,” “Moon over Caledonia,” “If I Were a Wealthy Man”


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