The Long Black Veil
It may be the Chieftains’s most blatant stab at crossover fame, but there’s nothing about Long Black Veil that feels calculated or crass. These elder statesmen of Irish music have collaborated with other musicians before, but here they go for the big pop-culture guns, bringing in the Rolling Stones, Van Morrison, Sting, and Sinead O’Connor, among others, to guest on tunes both traditional and contemporary, Irish and otherwise, all of them done up in full Celtic dress. Frankly, everyone concerned sounds like they’re having a wonderful time. From Sting’s surprisingly heartfelt turn on “Mo Ghile Mear” (complete with beautifully sung Gaelic) to Sinead O’Connor’s goosebump-inducing version of “Foggy Dew,” there’s not a phoned-in performance in the bunch (though Tom Jones’s “Tennessee Waltz” may be a bit overwrought for some). Marianne Faithfull’s world-weary voice is made for “Love is Teasin’,” and when the Rolling Stones slip a few riffs of “Satisfaction” into “The Rocky Road to Dublin,” it feels as natural as a high-spirited Saturday night at the pub. Best of all, none of these affectionate and respectful performances ever overshadows the band. This sounds like ensemble work, not a bunch of star turns, and when the Chieftains alone let loose on a rollicking “Changing Your Demeanour,” it’s clear whose album this is. Purists may resist these kinds of pop/folk collaborations, but they will find it hard to fault the music that resulted in this case. By turns haunting and joyous, raucous and melancholy, Long Black Veil is a fitting celebration of Irish music and the many forms it can take. Good crac, indeed.