Eileen Ivers: Eileen Ivers and Immigrant Soul

Mike Stiles wrote this review.

Here’s a recording from one of the greatest pioneers of the World Sound today. If this recording doesn’t immigrate its way into your soul, you’re most likely a candidate for relocation under the turf.

Eileen doesn’t fiddle-faddle around when it comes to stocking a project. There are a full two dozen crew members in this incarnation of Immigrant Soul. The core group is Tommy McDonnell on vocals and sizzlin’ blues harmonica; the left-handed John Doyle on guitar and bouzouki; Emedin Rivera at the Latin percussion kit; Jerry O’Sullivan powering uilleann and highland pipes and whistles; and Bakithi Kumalo prowling the bass guitar. Noteworthy guests include Joanie Madden on flutes and whistles and the Omagh Community Youth Choir among the backing vocals. The whole lot was recorded and mixed to the standards you’d expect from the Bronx bred, Magna Cum Lauded in Mathematics, nine time All-Ireland Fiddle Championed, and Riverdance alumnaed Ivers herself.

And there’s no messing around with the opening statement, “Darlin’ Corey.” This is an Appalachian song hepped up by the crew and featuring Tommy’s full vocal and harmonica prowess. The hairs on the nape of my neck still stand on end listening to this one. Tommy’s a welcomed one for the singing on the hymn-like “Reconciliation” with its variations on tura-lura-lay and the party-down song “Dance All Night.”

About a third of the numbers belong in that class of endeavor that laces the o’s together: Latino/Afro/Celto…. “Afro Jig” is a foot animator that combines the Celtic 6/8 jig with the African “3” rhythm. There’s also “Paddy in Zululand”, “Mundo Pequeno/Small World”, and “BX Style”, which is the group’s spoof of the Urban Contemporary sound.

We’re not bereft of Irish numbers here because of the presence of the traditional “Go Lassie Go”. There’s also “Craic with Jack”,an Ivers-ized polka co-penned with Cherish the Ladies co-founder Joanie Madden. The band saw fit to include a spoken-word piece, “Parting of Friends”, written by Barney Mulligan. It’s about Barney’s reluctant emigration to the States and the party back home prior to his departure, an event that’s generally come to bear the bittersweet name of an American Wake. An air of the same name follows the poem, a piece attributed to O’Carolan and included in the collections of Edward Bunting. Not to subtract one iota from the heartfelt poem on this recording, but I must point the way for those readers who appreciate such work to another gang of New York City based innovators, Black 47. Over the centuries some have had cause to lament the loss of family, tradition, music, and religion over the waves. But groups like Immigrant Soul and Black 47 have amply demonstrated that the endurance of all that is in its meeting with the best of the world’s traditions.

(Koch Records, 2003)

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