Wantin' Something More
Beyond the Pale
New release from this Celtic-Americana powerhouse with stellar vocal harmonies and hot instrumental chops, spanning globe and genres from Appalachia to Romania, slip jigs to breakdowns, Cajun to Celtic, original to traditional and unique covers.
Wantin’ Something More is well done all the way through…from the tunes to the instrumentation and from their voices to their blended harmonies. All come together to create this wonderful piece of listening pleasure and foot stomping fun. Band members are: Gordon McLeod (vocals, fiddle, guitar, bass, mandolins, banjo, & percussion), Christy McLeod (vocals & guitar), Betsy Cummings (vocals & accordion), & John Delaney (vocals, flutes, concertina, hammered dulcimer, whistles, & saxophones). Guest musicians include Cara Wildman on the bodhran and Bob Gentry on drums.
There are 13 tracks on this CD, spanning the globe from Romania to Australia, and from waltzes, Cajun music, and Ragtime to Slip Jigs and Reels. And they all have stories to tell.
1.Same Old Man: Think harmonies. This is a lively, foot stomping tune starting with vocals by Gordon McLeod which is soon blended with 4-part harmonies as Betsy Cummings, Christy McLeod, and John Delaney lend their voices in typical Beyond the Pale fashion. The tune is a version of a traditional American song melded with two Irish tunes ; "The Peacock's Feather" and "The Tamlin".
- Wantin’ Something More: The title track is an original song by Christy McLeod .Vocals start off with Christy in another lively tune that actually sent chills up my spine with her renderings of highs and lows, softs and louds, and fast and slows. During a short vocal breather, Gordon comes in strong on fiddle pairing with Christy’s guitar and Betsy’s accordion filling in as background. This song was written by Christy last summer while on tour in the Rocky Mountains, inspired by her realization that in order to make room for beauty in life one has to make room by moving beyond the mental clutter of past experience.
3.Patsy Geary's/art O'Keefe's/The Kings of Kerry: These are three Irish slides in the Sliabh Luachra tradition that made me want to link arms with someone and slide across the floor to its beat. Gordon put this set together from tunes learned from sessions in Ireland. The first two tunes were learned from Donal Murphy and Matt Cranitch of the Irish band Sliabh Notes, who have performed at NTIF several times in the past. The last tune was composed by the famous Irish accordionist and fiddler Sharon Shannon along with by Mike Scott and Steve Wickham of the Waterboys. I really enjoyed this combination of tunes, as it literally lifted me up and did not set me down till the very end.
4.Diamonds On The Water: Betsy brought this tune to the band, learning it from the English folk group "The Oyster Band". She was drawn to the sentiment of the song that no matter how tough things get there is always the beauty of music and nature to lift one's spirits. Betsy delivers the vocals beautifully, with Christy’s voice subtly blending in as one. When the octave suddenly go up, their voices become 4 as Gordon and John join in, and you really do feel your spirit soar through the air with the “music”.
Slip Jigs and Reels: “He was barely a man in his grandfather’s coat, sewn into the lining a 10 shilling note”…so the song and the story begins. John does such a great job of singing this song about a fictional Irish immigrant, a young man in the 19th century who becomes an outlaw in the American west. It's John's favorite kind of song; a bit of a dark story with historical references and a traditional Irish tune blended in (The Boy in The Gap). Betsy harmonized on the chorus, “…and he did like the ladies…the rise & the fall. Their ankles and dresses down on the dance floor, and rolling the dice and spinning the wheel, he took most delight in the slip jigs & reels”. With Gordon on fiddle, Christy on guitar, and Betsy on accordion, John joins in with his tin whistle as the song draws to a close.
Catalpa Rescue: Gordon wrote this song based on the true story of a bold rescue of Fenian rebels imprisoned by the British in Fremantle West Australia in the 1870s. They were rescued by one of their own, the narrator John Boyle O'Reilly, who had escaped previously with the aid of American whalers. He became a successful journalist in Boston, bought a whale ship, "The Catalpa" and sent a team back to Fremantle to rescue the remainder of his fellow prisoners in a daring successful raid. Gordon learned this story from an Irish patron who had hired BTP for a gig last Saint Patrick's Day. Chorus is a fine blend of harmonies
7.Romanian Tune/ Horizonto: Two European folk tunes played in what Beyond the Pale have called their “Clown Car Funeral” style. The first is a slow somewhat sad traditional Romanian tune reminiscent of some street bands that Gordon said he’d seen in Europe. The second tune is an exotic, energetic Breton style jig which was composed by Paul James of the famed English folk band Blowzabella.
The first tune a haunting melody, well played by Gordon on the fiddle joined by Betsy on accordion with Christy and John on guitar and flute. Closing my eyes, I visualized a lone gypsy fiddler lamenting or perhaps giving homage to something very special to him. As the tempo picks up, the vision watches as others are drawn forth, linking their arms and swirling to the hypnotic rhythm of the music as sadness turns to joy.
“Back In The High Life”- Christy’s adaptation of the Steve Winwood smash hit from the 80s , co-written by Texas songwriter Will Jennings. Christy had the idea to play this happy uplifting song in jig rhythm , which she thought seemed fit the song perhaps even better than the original Latin flavored beat. I must say I agree with her. Their rendition of this song was lively, fun, & very uplifting, as Christy’s voice and instrumentation seemed to be dancing together and swirling across a stage in jubilee.
Fiddle King- Written and sung by Gordon McLeod, this Civil War era story of the North Carolina fiddler Stobrod, is told from the point of view of the young boy who idolized him. After all, to the young boy, he was the “fiddle king”. Gordon wrote this song after Betsy sent him an article about the research of Charles Frazier, the author of the best selling book and movie “Cold Mountain” . The song and story are rich in North Carolina music and Scots-Irish heritage, and includes musical quotes and verbal allusions to several North Carolina Fiddle tunes, such as "Cluck Ol' Hen" and refer to two other tunes, "Jack O' Diamonds" and "Devil in The Strawstack".
Tommy Jig/ Dan Murphy’s Slide/ Four Posts of The Bed- A lively foot tapping tune with John coming in on the flute as though someone is just whistling along with the music. Betsy composed the first of these tunes which is inspired by the theme from the famous rock opera Tommy by The Who. The second tune, Gordon learned from the playing of the renowned Irish accordionist Donal Murphy as composed by Donal’s father Dan. The third tune has been played by John and Betsy for many years and was a part of the repertoire of their previous band Lost Tribe. The tunes blend together very well, keeping the tempo moving along smoothly and upbeat to the end.
Sweet William’s Ghost- An ancient ballad from the Francis Child collection, with vocals by Betsy Cummings. It tells the story of the ghost of William who visits his betrothed to confess and repent his infidelity in life. John adds some tastefully played concertina to the arrangement , with a little sweetness from Gordon's fiddle
The Goodnight Song- John brought this song to the band . Accompanied by sparse finger picked guitar, this song of friendship fits perfectly into BTP’s repertoire of four part harmony songs, with brief solos by John and Christy. I love this song. It was wonderfully sung taking an emotional run down a mellow pensive trail. “Keep a hold on hope through the darkest veil, and we’ll meet further on down the road”
The Diamond Waltz/ Cajun Billy/Ragtime Annie- The first Tune is a beautiful waltz composed by the renowned Irish accordionist Billy McComiskey. The second and third tunes are traditional American tunes given the Beyond The Pale treatment with hammered dulcimer, flute , whistle, guitar, accordion and fiddle. I loved these set of tunes, loved the Cajun, and especially found the Ragtime such fun. Your shoulders wouldn’t stay still.
Review by Lybo Buchanan published in "The Ceili" magazine.