Is it really 25 years ago that I first saw Altan performing in Hastings at a hastily put together gig in the non too salubrious setting of the local Catholic hall? I do remember fondly though the rapturous applause from an astonished packed audience. Of course, since then the band have gone on to world domination with their trademark brand of traditional/contemporary folk music. Fronted by the beautiful, delicate vocals and fiddle playing of Mairead Ni Mhaonaigh joined by Ciaran Tourish (fiddle), Dermot Byrne (accordions), Ciaran Curran (bouzouki) and Mark Kelly (guitar) the band have nothing to prove when it comes to musical virtuosity although to make things slightly different this time round the icing on the cake…as if any were needed…is provided by the ‘backing’ band The RTE Concert Orchestra. In many respects this recording takes me back to the days when I first heard the James Last Orchestra performing traditional Irish standards only here it’s executed with a little more subtlety and class. Delving into their back catalogue Altan have a wealth of great material to choose from and included here are the jaunty “Is The Big Man Within/Tilly Finn’s Reel”, the melancholy “I Wish My Love Was A Red, Red Rose” and the infectiously string driven “Comb Your Hair And Curl It/Gweebarra Bridge”. For nostalgia’s sake alone it’s nice to have a new album by the band but let’s hope it isn’t another five years before the next one.
Further information from: www.altan.ie