DAN MILNER WITH GUEST ARTISTS - Irish Pirate Ballads & Other Songs of the Sea

DAN MILNER WITH GUEST ARTISTS - Irish Pirate Ballads & Other Songs of the Sea
Smithsonian Folkways SFWCD40553

Dan Milner is a ‘solid man’ within the Anglo Irish American tradition; a veteran singer and scholar of high repute with an extensive repertoire which includes a seemingly fathomless song bag of nautical material.  Here, he has assembled a truly all star crew of singers and musicians to assist him steer through a fine song selection: Mick Maloney, Joanie Madden, John Doyle, Tim Collins, Gabriel Donohue, Susan McKeown, Robbie O’Connell, Brian Conway, The Johnson Girls and Bob Conroy.  The varied vocal and instrumental arrangements are flawless, displaying both high musicality and good taste.

However, my first comment must be on the only unaccompanied song on the 13 tracks, the classic broadside The Flying Cloud.  Dan is at his best here with a finely paced, tension held delivery and gives a riveting performance.   Then again, Dan has come up with a rare gem in Saucy Ward (Child 287) whose text is quite close to Ward the Pirate in Bronson (Volume 4) where Gabriel Donohue’s bouzouki accompaniment is highly effective.  There is an extraordinary range of song characters in this varied selection; saints and sinners, heroines and heroes, and of the latter we have a memorable rendition of The Bold McCarthy (The City of Baltimore).  The album closes with the evocative The River Lea, whose text was first published in Joanna Concord’s Songs of American Sailormen which is enhanced by an exquisite melody composed by singer Gina Dunlap  ‘an old friend from many New York Irish sessions’.

The album is supported by a handsomely illustrated 40page booklet with very detailed liner notes and biographies of the guest artists.  This is a top quality production from a quality label.  It will I`m sure, prove to be a welcome addition to any collection and a definite “must have” for the maritime song enthusiast.

Geordie McIntyre
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This album was reviewed in Issue 82 of The Living Tradition magazine.