Irish Fest didn't seem to be quite as "stellar" this year; it seemed 
like there were less "big names" than usual. However, there was a 
good side to this, in that it allowed our local bands Ce (Milwaukee) 
and Gan Bua (Chicago) to really shine through. This was the first 
time I had seen Gan Bua since Brian Hart has joined on vocals, and 
they had a new live CD to promote as well. They went over very well 
and their new CD is great; Brian sings three songs in Gaelic and one 
in English. I was surprised he included "The Hare's Dream," which he 
had sung on the Ce debut album, but this version justified the re-
recording as it was particularly sweet and sad. I highly recommend 
going to their website and ordering a copy of LIVE AT MARTYRS 
( Ce has a new CD too, Between Worlds, an all-
instrumental affair that will please anyone who loves traditional 
music with a modern flair. I'll write more on that album at a later 
date when I give it a closer listen.
I was able to catch The Cottars on this tour, whom I had just missed 
at Chicago's Celtic fest a year or two ago. They were better than I 
would have thought, since I haven't been thrilled with their second 
or third albums. Sister-brother team Fiona and Ciaran MacGillivray 
belted out a moving version of "The Briar and the Rose," while later 
in their set Fiona surprised with a lightening fast solo on tin 
whistle the drew a standing ovation. I would definitely go see them 
again on the strength of the two performances I caught. 
I think most of the musicians at Irish Fest were most exited about 
David Munnelly, a button accordianist who merges Irish traditional 
with 1920s era jazz. 1920s is a pretty early era of jazz for me to 
even recognize-- sometimes it even sounded like ragtime. At times I 
felt that rather than fusing the two styles, he was simply playing 
one song in one style and another in the other. One track featured 
three songs strung together: a cajun tune, an American tune, and an 
Irish tune. He had a drummer, brother Kieran Munnelly, who mostly did 
jazzy shuffles on snare drum, but when he picked up the Irish flute 
and did a duet with the mandolin player on some tunes from Quebec, it 
was one of the highlights of the set. I bought his CD with fiddler 
Aidan O'Donnell, IN SAFE HANDS, and it was one of best purchases I 
made. The only thing that didn't impress me about Munnelly's set was 
his vocalist Andrew Murray. He probably has a fine voice, but it was 
in a very low register and I'm partial to high and falsetto singing. 
I think this is probably the only thing that will hold back the 
band's popularity in terms of US audiences, but maybe it is my tastes 
that are off-kilter here. 
Chicagoans can see David Munnelly again on September 12 at the 
Uncommonground Coffeehouse where he will be performing with Gan Bua 
as the support act. That should be an amazing show, in many ways the 
best of Miwaukee Irish fest in a single evening. 
At the harp tent, I caught a complete performance by Kim Robertson 
who has many CDs that are sold in the new age market. It was a 
pleasing mix featuring religious music, classical interpretations of 
Holtz, folk songs, and even Robert Burns' Auld Lang Syne. I'd 
recommend her show to anyone who appreciates the "Celtic" harp 
(although technically I suppose it's the neo-Irish harp since the 
original Irish harp has wired strings. The later harps use gut 
strings of nylon for a much gentler sound. At least this is what I 
remember from the liner notes to the first Derek Bell album). 
Of course, the two Ce concerts I saw were a highlight, but I've spent 
so much time listening to their CD over the last year that this was a 
forgone conclusion. When they played one of the particularly sweet 
concertina/flute melodies from that album on Sunday afternoon, it 
caught the mood of fatigued reverie that everyone was in. We are 
really fortunate to have a band like this in the neighborhood and 
should never take it for granted. 
Well, I don't have much time left on the computer I'm using while 
mine is in storage, so I'll sign off. Happy jigging. -=--==- om==-=- 

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