Music Reviews

Dan Gurney, Traditional Irish Music on the Button Accordion

By Tara Dougherty, Music Editor
February / March 2012

A look at recently released music of Irish and Irish-American interest…

Traditional Irish Music on the Button Accordion  

Dan Gurney

Among the most exciting releases to come from an Irish American in recent months is Boston-native Dan Gurney’s Traditional Irish Music on the Button Accordion. Gurney first entered public consciousness in 1998 at the age of 11 when The Wall Street Journal published an article on the button accordion prodigy. Since that time, Gurney spent a year in Ireland exploring the trad music scene and perfecting his craft.

“I grew up in the States and had acquired a certain knowledge of Irish music, but I didn’t really understand the culture, which is just as important,” Gurney states in the introduction to the album. After a year in Ireland, Gurney embarked on this solo project, which demonstrates not just precision but the development of ornamentation that few accordion players manage to master.

The album is one of the most refined works of button accordion released in recent memory, an astounding fact when considering that Gurney recorded the majority of the album in one 3-hour session. It is a steady and solid piece of work. There is no lag in the tracks, no song that asks to be skipped over. As a first solo effort, Traditional Irish Music on the Button Accordion is quite impressive. Hopefully as Gurney matures as an artist, a more personal style will develop, as there is nothing distinctly “Dan Gurney” about the album, but that is certainly a break we can cut this 25-year-old.

Heartland: The Composer’s Salute to Celtic Thunder

Phil Coulter and His Concert Orchestra

Phil Coulter’s Heartland: The Composer’s Salute to Celtic Thunder comes as Coulter’s swansong to his partnership with Celtic Thunder, the enormously popular male answer to Celtic Woman. Legendary composer Coulter wrote a number of songs for Celtic Thunder since 2008. Now he has selected some of his favorites for performance by his concert orchestra for Heartland, to salute his time with Celtic Thunder.

The album is a fine collection of soothing pieces. The tone is very much that of a farewell. The mood of the soaring strings and delicate piano in “Buachaill Ón Eirne” (“Come By The Hills”) is accented by a lamenting female voice. It is a sad composition, but a beautiful one. The titles of the songs evoke a constant feeling of goodbye throughout the album including “Ride On,” “Gold and Silver Days” and “Farewell to Inishowen.” Heartland’s title track feels the most Celtic of all on the album. The Derry-born composer makes use of the voices of uileeann pipes to distinguish these as Irish sounds. The album is a must-own for Celtic Thunder and Coulter fans and definitely a worthy purchase for any orchestral Celtic fans.

Feels Like Home

The Celtic Tenors

It’s been twelve years since the Celtic Tenors first burst onto the scene. Now, more than six albums later, Feels Like Home is the most hopeful and optimistic album yet in the Tenors’ repertoire.

The album takes an assortment of the most uplifting tunes from Ireland, Scotland and Wales and reinvents them in a harmonic and pacifying tone that only the Tenors can master. The tenors themselves, James Nelson, Matthew Gilsenan and Colm Rogan, are all from different corners of Ireland and Northern Ireland and succeeded with the record in conveying a unity of spirit. “We were looking for a new theme for the new album,” James Nelson explains. “It’s even in the way we sing. You have three very different and distinct cultures singing in harmony. It makes for a very positive image and a very powerful musical statement.”

Highlights on the album include “Westering Home” and “The Wild Mountainside,” which both contain melodies that lend in subtle ways to the voices of the trio. Each tenor has his moment to shine solo throughout Feels Like Home, but as always fans will relish most in the awe-inspiring three-part harmonies that make the Celtic Tenors who they are.

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