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We play a lot of folk, small-town music, in a large urban center, and that contrast forms the idea behind the album name Rowan Street. The rowan tree, or mountain ash, is a symbol in ancient Celtic cultures, and as we happen to practice frequently on a local “Rowan" street, we’re symbolizing this blend between ancient and modern, between rural and urban, between soft, poetic rain, and parched, realistic ground. Because Celtic music - or any music, really, is an expression of us, what we aspire to, and what life is really like, and since we see the world as pretty and beautiful, we hope to capture that beauty in our music.
- Bucks of Arranmore - While various titles reference two separate locations, Oranmore and Arranmore, this reel's fast and furious sound, added to its countless chords (about 14 too many by Chris's count) is reminiscent of Donegal's unique fiddling tradition. So our name comes from the northern isle of Arain Mhor.
- Ten Thousand Miles Away - A terribly fun song to play, despite its poignant lyrics. As for the final reel, well, Kelcey insisted he have a little something. Deportation to Australia and whiskey before breakfast - what could be better?
- Red is the Rose - Perhaps the most famous Irish love ballad known today is actually "borrowed" (stolen) from its older Scottish cousin Loch Lomond. We arranged an a cappella version on the spot for a performance, and have been singing it that way ever since.
- Gypsy Set - in Scotland, the tale of the Raggle Taggle Gypsies is centuries old (some estimates go back to 1200 AD), but its driving energy is shared by the two contemporary reels (by Amy Cann and Jay Ungar) following it.
- Mary from Dungloe - This song describes the immense sorrow of a man forced by his lover's father to leave both her and his home for the unknowns of America. Though written recently, the song's rich emotions have engrained it deeply in the music tradition.
- The Diamantina Drover - Written by Hugh McDonald (of the Australian band Redgum) after meeting an old man on the train, who had spent his life herding cattle through Queensland's arid interior. While the song is not Irish, the heartache expressed is simple and universal.
- Rowan Street - It starts with a drop, then a drizzle, and then a storm - only to vanish leaving everything wet and glistening. Much like Ireland, or autumn in the band's home in Spokane. The first tune is a Broken Whistle original by Ella & company. Niall Vallely wrote the second.
- The Caltan Weaver - Aside from "stop playing that whistle," we don't typically get many requests, so when an audience member asked for this one, we figured it was worth a shot. Once David learned he could play it in unnatural time signatures (go on, try to count it), the outcome was inevitable. This Scottish song warns of the dangers of a love of the liquor.
- Snowy Path to Somewhere - It started out innocently enough, playing Altan's slip jig, The Snowy Path. Honest. But gradually, the genre changed into something radically different, before coming back to the tradition---mostly. It could be a parable for music.
- Old Favorite Set - The first tune in this set is one of the first jigs we played as a band. While it goes by many names, its most common title, The Old Favorite, seemed appropriate for one of our oldest and dearest sets.
As our début album, this collection of songs has a particular emphasis on the enormous variety found even within the traditional Celtic genre, but it also stays true to the tradition of fiery, musical gracefulness. You can even see this thread in our cover art. Our unique sound draws from many different styles, from a little classic rock and jazz to classical orchestral pieces, to traditional Irish and Celtic, and back again to R&B, electronic, and hip-hop, but all of the various sounds contribute in their own ways to the traditional Celtic style.
- Reel Set - We love the raw energy of the fiddle in this set, which is appropriate, since it was found by Kelcey Hanson, our main fiddler.
- Little Brigid Flynn - This was our first a capella piece to be performed, and in fact dates its introduction into Broken Whistle's repertoire to before Broken Whistle was a band. It's a beautiful, chipper little tune, and its rich, harmonic melody drew us to land on a simple 3-part harmony that brings out that wealth of sound.
- MacPherson's Lament - This tune is also called MacPherson's Rant, because of the fiery Scottish outlaw memorialized. Jamie MacPherson was allegedly a Robin Hood-type outlaw in the late 1600's, in disgrace with the law. After successfully eluding capture for some time, he was betrayed and imprisoned. In the week before his execution, he wrote this song. We play it with a rebellious twist, starting from when he emerges from the prison, and finishing in a lament-turned-warcry. Because Scottish laments are rants.
- Slip Jigs - The beginning of this arrangement is a tribute both to the classical backgrounds of most of our band members, and also to the beautiful tone combinations found in Celtic music. Particularly, it highlights David’s flute tone as it plays sole melody, unison with Ella’s fiddle, and a harmony part.
- Step It Out, Mary - We were so mad at the heartless greed of Mary’s father by the end of this vocal tune written by Sean McCarthy that we jumped right into the Glasgow Reel (also known as Tam Lynn in all its various spellings). But David felt he couldn’t just end the piece on such an aggressive note, and wrote the last tune, Cat in the Microwave, to lighten up the atmosphere. As for the name, eh, well, Irish tune names are some of the wackiest on the planet. No cats were harmed in the writing or performance of this piece.
- Réaltai sa Spéir - Ella and Chris wrote this piece after we all went for a night-time walk on a quiet beach. The stars were so clear, and the waves so enthralling. But we’ll let the song speak for itself.
- Light Jigs - A basic light jig set. But basic doesn’t mean boring.
- The Dark Island - David was drawn to this Scottish-sounding piece because of the hard, rugged beauty he thought it captured. He says he thinks of icy, wind-whipped waves dashing against high, lonely cliffs. How cliché. But the rugged, unadorned land is a continuing thread throughout our arrangement.
- Spancil Hill - This bitter poem was allegedly written by a man on his deathbed, dreaming of his home in Ireland. We believe our arrangement tells the rest.
- Leis an Lurighan - We were looking for an eventual successor to Little Brigid Flynn, found this piece, and Chris added a few more verses, telling of a ship’s struggle against a storm. The ship escapes in the original, but we don’t know about ours.
- Ashokan Farewell - Our old-time farewell song, written by Jay Ungar.