As I put together our Celtic Soundscape for St. Patrick’s Day, I was struck by the dearth of new Celtic music coming out. Now, let me be clear. There is still a vital Celtic music community with lots of discs being released. However, not too much of it is in the Echoes vein. It’s quite a contrast to even 8 years ago, a few years after the Celtic Craze crescendoed, but when it was still so prevalent in the mass consciousness that we could produce our Celtic Pipeline April Fools piece and it was still relevant. Now, it would be like writing a disco parody. It seems like most of the Celtic musicians have either returned to more traditional roots, or gone dark. Whither Clannad, Nightnoise, Patrick Ball, or Davy Spillane?* They are all among a long list of artists who populated our normal playlists and the Celtic shows, but who have disappeared in one way or another. There are great bands out there, including Lunasa, Flook and Kila, but more and more they are sounding a more traditional note and not the evocative Celtic fusion that brought the music to such prominence. Afro Celt Sound System kicked the music to a new level with possibly the last wrinkle in Celtic fusion, but they currently don’t even have a record contract.
Hearts of Space records recently put out the seventh volume of their Celtic Twilight series, but there’s little Celtic music on it. It’s heavily padded with gothic chants by the musically un-Celtic likes of Jocelyn Montgomery, Stellamara and Mark O’Connor.
Loreena McKennitt’s An Ancient Muse just won Celtic Album of the Year in a New Age Reporter poll and there is barely a Celtic mode, rhythm melody or instrument on it. A great album, but the Celtic connection is tenuous. And please don’t mention the Muzak sounds of Celtic Women.
I’m not waving the flag for a new Celtic renaissance, I’m just reflecting on what appears to truly be a celtic twilight. You can hear it glimmer this Friday night on Echoes.
Is there new Celtic music we’re missing? Let us know.
*Clannad broke up years ago and singer Moya Brennan is a solo artist making Christian inclined CDs. Nightnoise founder Mícheál Ó’Domhnaill and fiddler Johnny Cunningham both passed away, but the band had already broken up and everyone else is off on less high-profile ventures. Patrick Ball is still active but focusing on spoken word works. I couldn’t get Davy Spillane’s site to load, but he appears to have taken a more traditional course.