“Making Friends” is the third album from the Irish Rock outfit Ceann. Based loosely out of Pittsburgh, PA, Ceann continue to be one of the busiest bands in North America averaging over 220 shows a year for the third straight year since their inception in the fall of 2005. For their latest album Ceann welcomed a small handful of guest musicians into the fold, including Irish troubadour Seamus Kennedy, Accordionist Vladimir Mollov, and Alto and Tenor Saxophone players Greg Sloan and Dan Rusnak. Also appearing on the album is fiddle player Patrick Mannion who has been playing occasionally with Ceann since September of 2007. The album was recorded entirely in Pittsburgh at Mr. Smalls Recording with the help of engineer Larry Luther. Although Ceann are Pittsburgh natives “Making Friends” is the first album they’ve recorded entirely in Pittsburgh.
“Making Friends” is the by far the best sounding and most well-produced effort yet from Ceann. All of their albums have been self-produced and it’s easy to hear the musical growth from their first album “Almost Irish” in 2006 to their latest musical adventure “Making Friends.” From a band better known for their songs about Pirates and Vikings than for heartfelt songs of love, life, and Ireland, Ceann have opened a window into their appeal as an Irish band that hadn’t yet been featured on their two previous efforts. Ceann have made a name for themselves as one of the biggest Irish bands on the east coast on the appeal of their Barenaked Ladies like sense of humor and fun originals like “Pretty On the Inside”, “The Worst Pirate Song”, and “Pittsburgh Makes Me Drunk.” With “Making Friends” Ceann have not only found a sound for themselves, but they have clearly found an effective and compelling way to showcase their instrumental chops while still featuring their impressive and funny songwriting skills. Also evident for the first time on their recordings is their affection for traditional Irish standards. “Making Friends” clearly points to Ceann’s dedication to becoming one of the biggest Irish Rock bands in the world. With their third studio release, Ceann have made an album that has put them well on the path to that end.
The album opens with the Eastern European tinged “Green Badge of Shame”, a rousing and thoughtful number that seamlessly melds accordion, fiddle, and electric guitar. Ceann’s new polished sound on this album is a new step in the right direction for a band that had already been carving out their own niche in the Celtic Rock scene. The second track on the album is the popular pub tune by Andy M. Stewart “The Ramblin’ Rover.” The band makes no attempt to hide their approval for the panicked triumphant style of Flogging Molly as they powerfully rip through this Irish pub standard. The guest vocals of Seamus Kennedy add a fun touch to the upbeat pageantry and fiddle shredding solos of Patrick Mannion.
Fans of Ceann’s sillier material won’t be disappointed either. From a first listen, Ceann fans will realize that on “Making Friends” Ceann’s material has matured in sound and execution but songs like the Tom Jones style “Friends With Benefits”, the self deprecating “So Canadian”, and the hilarious “The Famous Allentonian Club” can assure their listeners they haven’t lost the ability to craft funny and clever lyrics. Their song “Moron with Bodhran” pokes fun at rhythm-impaired Irish drum purchasing tourists with an ironically impressive Bodhran solo by Seamus Kennedy.
The highlight of the album though might be two traditional Irish songs though. “The Old Dun Cow” is a Raggae twist on an Irish favorite. With a full horn section arrangement, the song takes on a Ska-Folk feel that flows over drummer Scott Taylor’s dance hall beat underneath. The song never loses its original appeal and it could be one of the more effective reinventions of a traditional Irish song since Thin Lizzy’s “Whiskey in the Jar.” On another track, it’s again the horn section along with the impressive fiddle playing of Patrick Mannion that make “Johnny Jump Up” possibly the definitive version of that song. The song would do as well in the big band dance era as it will in the traditional Irish music circles.
With 16 songs, Ceann’s new album “Making Friends” has something for everyone. Their impressive to-the-letter recording of the traditional Irish song “The Star of the County Down” proves they don’t change songs just for sake of changing songs. Music fans will enjoy yet another musical journey in hilarity and fun with a band that have made themselves one of the top Irish and college bands in the country. In just two and half years Ceann have become one of the most popular draws in the North East and Midwest and are now armed with an album and a sound that will assuredly seem them continue to grow as quickly as any independent band in America.