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THE CHIEFTAINS "Down the Old Plank Road"
The Nashville Sessions RCA Victor 09026639712

This the group's 39th album was released on October 7th, but was overshadowed as Derek Bell was sadly to die just over a week later whilst promoting it in America. The album stands as a fitting tribute to the man and the band who have proved the best known popularisers of Irish music on earth. It is certainly not their first collaboration with artistes from other genres, and not even the first time they've "gone country" before, having released an album with the likes of Don Williams and Willie Nelson in 1992.

"Down the Old Plank Road" goes back further in time nearer to the dawn of country's existence, and will delight lovers of old time music, whether they are those recently converted by "O Brother." / "Down from the Mountains" or of longer standing, and admirers of Irish music alike. It's all here from the title track opener, which the band share with such luminaries as Bela Fleck, to the surprisingly convincing "Don't let your deal go down" from Lyle Lovett. The sleeve notes claim that " Alison Krauss, Gillian Welch & David Rawlings sound if they've been strolling on the seaside rocks of Donegal all their lives" and they don't exaggerate. The Chieftains and Gillian Welch may indeed come from different points of the musical compass, but all melt comfortably into this totally natural sound when the music of the Emerald Isle meets America. The Gillian Welch track "Katie Dear"(a variant of Silver Dagger) is the best example -her vocals are given extra poignancy by Moloneys' pipes and Randy Kohrs' dobro, whilst the whole fusion of cultures is seamlessly underpinned by the instrumental pieces between verses being the perfectly fitting Irish tune "Butcher Boy"

No doubt you'll have tracks you'll like better than others, just as I did, but it is an album that is without a single filler track -all are of a high standard that is much more consistent throughout than some of their other collaborations such as the earlier"Long Black Veil", whilst being on a par with the best of their work.


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This album was reviewed in Issue 50 of The Living Tradition magazine.