Burning Bridget Cleary joined the world of Celtic music on St. Patty's Day in 2006 when, by what I would like to think was divine intervention, a group scheduled to play at a house party was unable to make the gig and father/daughter duo Lou and Rose Baldino stepped up to the plate. The duo was joined by Genevieve (Genna) Gillespie, Rose's childhood friend. Funny enough, it was Genna's family's group, Gilly's Hedge, who couldn't make it to the gig that fateful night.
The trio has embraced what I like to think of as a North American phenomenon wherein the Irish Celtic groups on the west side of the pond sound "more Irish" than the Irish groups do. This is certainly not meant as an offense to any Irish groups playing Celtic music, but is just a personal observation. I believe this stems from the Yanks, et al, striving to stay true to their roots, whilst the Irish, their feet already planted firmly in the cultural soil of their homeland, feel they have more freedom to musically explore their musical fence lines.
BBC certainly makes excellent use of those Celtic roots, as "Totes for Goats" clearly proves in each track. From hauntingly vocal-sounding fiddles to the deep heartbeat of the bodhrán and soul-wrenching D whistle, the very best in musical Ireland is represented here. BBC also has a recent welcome percussive addition of Canadian Peter Trezzi, who is heard on about half of the songs on "Totes for Goats." In prior works, Lou had the added duty of providing percussion when featured artists weren't available. By adding the explosive talent of Peter, Lou is now a bit freer to compose and concentrate on exploring his considerable talent for the guitar.
Oh, and let's not forget that this is the group who won the 2009 Celtic Music Radio award for their album "Everything is Alright." I fully expect "Totes for Goats" to follow closely in the success of that album.
A few comments on each of the album's tracks:
1. Where's Pete, The New Copper Plate, The Old Copper Plate, The Scholar
(featuring Nate Godshall on the bodhrán)
The first track on the album is a dance set that grabs you and makes you realize you are going to have to set aside the next forty-five minutes to listen to the album in its entirety. Typical of the traditional Irish dance sets, each song effortlessly flows into the next so you really aren't sure where one ends and another begins. This set showcases the wonderful fiddling talents of Genna and Rose.
2. The Elfin Knight
A traditional Scots ballad, this updated rendition is a foot-tapping endeavor and you quickly find yourself singing along. Mid-song, the tempo picks up with a southern rock element being added with drums and electric guitar, offset by the lilting voices of Genna and Rose. This is one of my favorites.
3. SLOPPY SET: SLOPPY'S SLIP JIG, THE NIGHT POOR LARRY WAS STRETCHED, Booley House
(featuring Nate Godshall on the bodhrán)
The second dance set on the album, this one includes a quiet jig. The set brings to mind lords and ladies dancing a quadrille in a gilded ballroom while the wallflowers sip punch on the sidelines, hoping for their chance at a spin around the floor.
4. The King and the Fair Maid, Moses the Goat
When Genevieve and Rose harmonize on this track, you feel like you've been transported to the edge of a faerie glen, peeking through the bushes to secretly witness a sacred celebration filled with twirling dances and foot-stomping joy. This is a hundreds-year-old song with such humorous lyrics as, "Farewell my king, you've been generous and fine. What has been between your legs is now between mine," and is sure to become a favorite.
5. The Unfortunate Rake Set, The Unfortunate Rake, The Boy in the Boat, Jimmy' Groove
Number three of the album's dance sets features acoustic guitar that seems to sing unwritten lyrics. The Unfortunate Rake truly highlights Lou's amazing talent. This is the most haunting of the dance contained in this album.
6. Nead Na Lachan Sa Mhuta ("The Duck's Nest In The Moat")
Nate Godshall earns his keep on this one with the necessary addition of his bodhran. Siddharth Bhaskar joins in with the haunting D whistle. With Lou's guitar, the fiddles and the girls' Gaelic harmonizations, this is a toe-tapper that makes you wish you could riverdance.
7. Jigs for the Gangly Sort: Cameron's Twinkle, Trip to Spektor
This dance set starts out with lilting fiddle with acoustic guitar accompaniment that is quietly unassuming in the background, yet the instruments trade off, with the guitar becoming the focus while the fiddle seems to relegate to the background. Joseph Plowman once again joins the group with his throaty bass. These jigs have an edge that make them something fun to dance to.
8. Lament for Emil
Haunting soul-filled fiddle from Genna and Rose impregnate this song with a depth that needs no lyrics. In listening to this heart-wrenching song, I could imagine a Jane Austen moment as the heroine stands upon a rocky overlook, her long skirts and hair whipping behind her, watching the sea hopelessly for signs of her long-lost love who will never return.
9. The Blacksmith
The edgy guitar melody at the beginning of The Blacksmith sets the stage for the haunting vocals that tell the age-old story of love found and then lost. Rose and Genna harmonize beautifully in this rendition of an old English folk song.
10. To My Wife, Short and Sweet
Very beautiful and, true to its name, short and sweet at only thirty-nine seconds. This tune says "I love you" in the best possible way. It definitely leaves you wanting more, so you'll have to put this one on repeat.
11. The Fort: Are You Ready Yet, The Return to Miltown, The Fort of the Daft Woman
The last dance set on the album is probably the most fun. With acoustic guitar off-setting the fiddles, this one has a rock feel to it. Warning: With the addition of electric bass, this becomes a knee-slapping foot-stomper that could cause accidents if you listen to it while driving.
12. The Connemara Shore
This is the only song from "Totes" with Lou singing the lead. This track is reminiscent of sipping a pint in a quiet pub while being lulled by James Taylor in the background. Lou has a very pleasant voice, although it seems the melody is in a key a bit too high for him, lending a near-falsetto to his vocals. This is a beautiful song, however, and if you listen closely, you could swear you can hear the sea spray as it shatters against the crags along a lonely seashore.
13. The Cuckoo
When the song starts with the sweet notes of the fiddle, you might think it's a Celtic rendition of "How Great Thou Art," but the upright bass talents of Joseph Plowman intrude and catch you off-guard, and soon you find yourself swaying in your chair, eyes closed, wishing you had lyrics to sing along to.
No matter which song becomes your favorite, this album is certainly one you will do well to grace your Celtic collection with. Who can go wrong with fiery fiddlers, rocking guitar riffs, a percussion plethora and smoking vocals?
Celtic Radio Contributor