Reviews, profiles and news about music in Chicago

Preview: Carlos Núñez/Old Town School of Folk Music

Celtic, Jazz, Latin, World Music No Comments »

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When you think about Celtic music, you probably think of someone from the Scottish Highlands, Ireland or maybe France, but you will definitely change your mind when you hear the sounds of this talented musician from Galicia, Spain who has collaborated with the likes of The Chieftains (he was considered their “seventh member” when he worked with them), Sinéad O’Connor, Mexican-American band Los Lobos and Ry Cooder, to name a few.

Carlos Núñez is a virtuoso of the gaita, which is the Galician version of the bagpipes (another take on the instrument is also widely used by folk musicians in Italy). His style could be described as a blend of flamenco, Spanish folk, jazz and Celtic music with a contemporary, almost pop-like feel. His band’s arrangements are highly percussive and include instruments not commonly associated with Celtic music, such as Spanish guitars, electric bass, horns and Latin drums.

In a live format Núñez has fantastic energy and creativity with his improvised licks. He plays his gaita with the demeanor of a rock guitarist–which is probably why some of his fans have nicknamed him “the Hendrix of the bagpipes.” His band, which is rounded out by Stephanie Cadman (fiddle, step-dancing, vocals), Pancho Alvarez (medieval guitar) and Xurxo Nuñez (percussion), has great chemistry together. This is definitely something to discover if you haven’t yet done so. (Ernest Barteldes)

February 12 at Old Town School of Folk Music, 4544 North Lincoln, (773)728-6000. 8pm, $10 suggested donation.

Preview: Celtic Woman/Rosemont Theatre

Celtic, Folk, Vocal Music, World Music No Comments »

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Though many reality-TV alums might disgust the public more than they (supposedly) entertain, there are a select few who show real talent beyond the TV shows that helped launch their careers. Two examples that have stood out: singers Jennifer Hudson (who was booted from “American Idol”) and Susan Boyle (of “Britain’s Got Talent”), both of whom went on to have successful careers on their own right after their time on the shows was over.

Another name to add is Susan McFadden, who has made quite a name for herself in London’s West End after winning the part of Sandy on the British version of “Grease Is The Word,” a reality show which selected players for a revival of the famous Broadway musical. Read the rest of this entry »

Pass It On: Singer Paddy Homan Brings Ireland Closer to Chicago

Celtic, Chicago Artists No Comments »

By Casey Brazeal

Paddy Homan is an Irish tenor from the County Cork. He spends his days working and studying and performs in the evenings. He will be doing concerts every day in March, including a performance on Windy City Live on St. Patrick’s Day, but he took some time out to talk about being a modern-day Irish immigrant, his experience with making music in Chicago, and a bad case of appendicitis.

Give us a little background on who you are and what you do in terms of making music. Read the rest of this entry »

Green Gospel: Fifty years of spreading Irish music, Chieftains style

Celtic No Comments »

The Chieftans now

By Dennis Polkow

If it’s anywhere near St. Patrick’s Day, you can bet that the Chieftains are not far away. You might expect the traditional Irish band that is the walking symbol of Celtic culture across the globe might want to play back home for the occasion, but of course, it’s only the rest of the world that goes green and gaga with celebrations.

“Dublin is celebrating it big these days,” says group founder/leader Paddy Moloney in his familiar brogue, “but mainly since they copped on to what happens over here in the States. We grew up with St. Patrick’s Day being a church holiday, but it’s a massive secular celebration over here, and we hit it in a big way, while American bands are now going over to march in the Dublin parade.”

The further irony is that while the Chieftains are known and loved across the globe as Ireland’s musical ambassadors, back home their accomplishments are by and large greeted with apathy when they are noticed at all. “The papers there might put in U2 or somebody,” says Moloney, “but because we’re doing Irish music, they’re not inclined to report on it; they can’t come to grips with it. They know the recognition we have over here and in other countries, and if something goes wrong, they’ll print it on the front page. Even starting out in my teens playing pipes, I took slagging at work and at school, you know?

Read the rest of this entry »

Record Reviews: Everyday Holiday Music

Celtic, Folk, Folk-rock, Holiday Music, Jazz, Pop, R&B, Record Reviews, Rock, World Music No Comments »

During this time of year, music stores and their online counterparts get filled with rereleases that range from remastered versions of holiday classics from Ella Fitzgerald, Ray Charles, Tony Bennett, Elvis Presley and Frank Sinatra to not-so-great offerings from the likes of Christina Aguilera and even former Beatle Ringo Starr (who made a whole album about a decade ago). And then again there are those faux-humorous songs about daddy getting drunk at Christmas while grandma was run over by a reindeer. While some of these examples are genuinely enjoyable, many are better left where they belong—in the bargain bin.

But the truth remains that for many people a Christmas party is not quite complete without holiday music, so there definitely is always a market for these albums—even if we have been hearing them day in and day out at the local grocery store since late October. In spite of that sensory overload, some new
releases deserve to be checked out, especially for artists who decide to present these classics from a different perspective. Read the rest of this entry »

Preview: Dikanda/Edgewater Gralley Festival

Celtic, Festivals, Folk, World Music No Comments »

Photo: Marcin Grzegorczyk

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Though one might see Poland as a pretty homogenous nation—there are no big linguistic differences between each side of the country, for example—its folk music is quite surprising. Polish folk sounds bear influences from the music of Germany, Ukraine and the Czech Republic depending on what part of the country they come from.

Which brings us to Dikanda, a group that has been around since 1997 but is only touring the U.S. for the first time. Read the rest of this entry »

Preview: The High Kings/Irish American Heritage Center

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Photo: Madstone Productions

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Formed in the same manner as Celtic Woman (under the direction of David Downes of “Riverdance”), the High Kings are a group of male singers and instrumentalists who sing a blend of traditional and modern Irish music. The band members have backgrounds in traditional music, pop and the theater—for instance, Darren Holden originated the role of the lead piano man in Billy Joel’s musical “Movin’ Out,” and also toured with the man himself, while his band mates (Finbarr Clancy, Martin Furey and Brian Dunphy) all come from families with extensive participation in their countries’ music scene.

Their music is highly enjoyable, but bear in mind that it is intended for mass markets. Among their songs is “Fields of Glory,” an all-out celebration of their football (soccer in America) heroes, and “Parting Glass,” a hauntingly beautiful tune that pays tribute to friends lost too soon. Their debut self-titled release reached #5 on the Irish charts, and they are coming to the US on their first massive tour to promote their sophomore disc “Memory Lane” (Universal Ireland). At their stop in Chicago, they will also be paying tribute to the legacy of music of The Clancy Brothers (Finbarr’s father was a member) and Tommy Makem. (Ernest Barteldes)

March 3 at the Irish American Heritage Center, 4626 North Knox, (773)282-7035, 7:30pm. $35.

Preview: Rose’s Pawn Shop/Double Door

Bluegrass, Celtic, Folk-rock, Punk No Comments »

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When Rose’s Pawn Shop sets up to play, the stage looks a little confusing. First come the banjo, the mandolin, the fiddle. Then, someone carries out an electric guitar and an upright bass. Finally, a drum set is plopped right in the middle of an all-out instrument arsenal. To further confuse things, a group of Los Angeles-looking twentysomethings stand in front of the crowd and pick up the disparate tools they need to share their bluegrass/Celtic/punk-rock sound. Mixing Hank Williams-like lamenting with Flogging Molly-esque Celtic punk works quite well for the band, especially with their recent win at Billboard’s Independent Music World Series. Rose’s Pawn Shop relies on four-part vocal harmonies, rockabilly speed and lead singer Paul Givant’s voice to make their unique style sound cohesive. The five-piece band–who first found each other on Craigslist—self-released “The Arsonist” in 2006, and are now touring with their second album, “Dancing on the Gallows.” Expect the show to run on high-speed, feel-good beats, but pay attention to the slowdown, when Givant’s twangy tenderness breaks through. (Dee Fabbricatore)

July 22 at Double Door, 1572 North Milwaukee, 9pm. $10-$20.

Preview: The Chieftains

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How ironic that, as St. Patrick’s Day nears, the Chieftains, Ireland’s ambassadors of traditional Irish music, are always in the States. Of course, Irish music is taken for granted on the Emerald Isle, the way that, say, blues and jazz are here in America, though made a big fuss over everywhere else. Rather than be lost in the shuffle of what is really a religious holiday back home, the group prefers the party atmosphere that marks the holiday here. Read the rest of this entry »