The Chieftains – Voice Of Ages
Celebrating 50 years of anything is no mean feat. But for Irish folk group, The Chieftains it sounds like business as usual for their Voice Of Ages LP. These musicians are once again joined by an enviable list of collaborators for a knees-up where the main ingredients seem to be balancing your pint of Guinness as you spin a yarn or ten.
Voice Of Ages boasts a classic feel and is lead by the sole, original Chieftain and easily the owner of the best name for an Irish pub, Paddy Moloney. The prolific veterans of the biz have previously worked with Van Morrison, Mick Jagger, Sting and Tom Jones, among others. This time around it’s all about Ireland passing the musical lucky charms to America – or at the very least Americana musicians – including The Decemberists and Bon Iver. It’s a celebration between the young folksters and the old folks through country hoedowns, infectious jigs and earnest ballads.
Across 15 tracks the traditionalists again cross rather familiar terrain that is peppered by flutes, fiddles, strings, pipes and whistles. It is all rather charming and engaging. Plus, the proceedings are as organic as those potatoes and other vegetables growing far below the earth.
Carolina Rua features Imelda May but sounds like it could’ve been on Seth Lakeman’s recent album. It is classic-sounding and with a heart of gold while also retaining a very Irish feel. On Come All Ye Fair & Tender Ladies we are treated to not one but three lovely, country gals who sound like they’ve gathered close around the fire while they sing in perfect harmony.
Bon Iver’s contribution is Down In The Willow Garden, one arranged by Justin Vernon and head Chieftain, Paddy Moloney. Vernon’s whisper-soft falsetto propels the proceedings and helps create one heartfelt tragedy, something that is at odds with the hoedown, Pretty Little Girl, that proceeds it. The Civil Wars wrote Lily Love specifically for the project while The Decemberists opt for the tried and true, When The Ship Comes In. The latter is a ghostly murder ballad originally written by one Bob Dylan.
It sounds like Scotland’s military tattoo make an appearance at the end of Hard Times Come Again No More with Paolo Nutini. Peggy Gordon meanwhile, is reminiscent of Cat Stevens’ Moon Shadow, except that this one has multiple feminine harmonies that are beautiful and lilting. Another fine lady offers a winner on The Chieftains In Orbit. Here, NASA astronaut and Chieftains fan, Cady Coleman borrows a tin whistle from the group and records some sounds while floating in space.
Voice Of Ages is a solid effort of sparkly goodness that is rather lively and amiable. Like a skip through verdant fields full of shamrocks, there are nods at this picture-perfect postcard of sheer beauty. It’s an aural adventure that borders on the mystical and is certainly not tied to time and space.