Ramble To Cashel - Celtic Fingerstyle Guitar Volume One

Various Artists

Rounder Records, 1998

REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen


Being part Irish, I have always had an affinity toward music that was somehow related to the Auld sod. (Well, there is one exception; my dad borrowed a disc of Irish music from my mom recently. It was so poorly played, that it left no doubt to me why... well, insert your own joke here.)

Being a marginal guitarist, I also am drawn to albums that feature spectacular guitar work. There is a reason I've loved the work of such six-string masters as Page, Satriani, Vai and Uhrich. (Trust me, one day I'll explain who that fourth name belongs to.) Note that I'm not claiming to be in the same category as these players - hell, I'm not worthy to change their guitar strings.

When you combine these two different worlds, the result can be fantastic, as evidenced on my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250 Ramble To Cashel - Celtic Fingerstyle Guitar Volume One. This disc, a "soundtrack" to the home video of the same name, is part of a two-disc collection released earlier this year on the genre. (We'll eventually get to the second volume in the set, The Blarney Pilgrim.)

Seven men who could be considered masters of this alternative-tuning style of guitar playing give it their all throughout the 22 songs that make up this disc. Whether it is the wondrous string bending you'll hear by Martin Simpson, the resounding bass strings of Steve Baughman, the light, almost pop-like sound to the playing of Pierre Bensusan or the more classical sound to the playing of Duck Baker, there will be something on this disc for all listeners. If you're not enjoying something on this disc, you're either dead or not a guitarist.

Though these songs are characterized as traditional Irish and Scottish tunes, many of them are new to my ears - and that's perfectly fine with me. I can only listen to versions of "Oh, Danny Boy" for so long (and it does make its way onto this disc courtesy of El McMeen - though his rendition is pretty good). You don't need to be an expert on music from this area of the world to enjoy the guitar work of these players.

Each person brings their own style and touches to the six-string on this album - and although there is enough of a uniformity to keep this disc together, you're bound to find your own favorite player. I like the richer guitar tones of Pat Kirtley over the bass-rich, slower playing of Tom Long; this also could be why I like Simpson's three contributions to this particular disc so much - although he also lets his bass strings ring out when the mood calls for it.

The only negative is that it sometimes gets a little redundant hearing so much Celtic music featuring only the guitar in one sitting. While it's still a very enjoyable disc, this is one you might want to break up over two or more listening sessions. (If anything, that could allow you to get to know each guitarist and their style more intimately.)

Ramble To Cashel is a great collection of guitar-driven Celtic music - and it leaves me wanting to learn more about the genre. Fortunately, I have one more disc's worth of material to indulge in - here's hoping they don't stop the series there.

Rating: A-

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© 1998 Christopher Thelen and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Rounder Records, and is used for informational purposes only.