I’ve always been a fan of Irish music—Celtic music in general. The catchy tunes, the fiddle (which I play), the rhythms, the haunting lyrics and melodies all conspire to transport me back to my ancestral roots. Coming from an Irish-German family, music was always in the air—and I am a sucker for a reel and a jig. The new CD by Seasons, Which Way to Dublin Town hits the spot for the flavor and the feel of true Irish music. This is a trio of young sibling musicians: Mary-Kate Summer Lee on harp and hammered dulcimer, Mary-Teresa Summer Lee on harp, mandolin and percussion, and Peter Winter Lee on hammered dulcimer. They also have several great guest musicians to round out the ensemble. This second CD of theirs features mostly traditional Irish songs arranged in unique ways with non-traditional instrumentation—mixed in with a few American tunes done with an Irish flair, a Scottish tune, and two original songs written by Mary-Kate. This collection of songs is a good combination of evocative heart-wrenchingly tender songs and rollicking Irish favorites. There are seventeen tracks on this album, more than enough to keep you thinking, singing along and toe-tapping. It’s obvious these young artists have a love for God and the saints, and their faith spills over into their choice of songs for this unique collection.
Their arrangements include merging two tunes together, as in their Drowsy Maggie/Johnny’s Gone to France and Red Is the Rose/Down by the Salley Gardens, as well as Foxhunter’s Jig/Morrison’s Jig, are unique for Irish music. Since many traditional tunes have repetitive melodies, this concept of creating a medley adds variety, length and spice to those tracks. Just when you think you’ve learned the tune—it goes off in a different direction as the medley shifts from one tune to the next. It’s lots of fun to listen to, and keeps your ears on alert.
If I singled out every track, this review would be much longer than the space provided, but I did want to mention a few: the first track—78 Eatonwood Green is a Rich Mullins song that the trio is proud to present, since the reason they became interested in the hammer dulcimer was because of Rich. Ashokan Farewell is done beautifully on the hammer dulcimer—one of my favorite songs in the world, and their arrangement does it justice. The dulcimer work throughout this CD is just gorgeous, as is all the musicianship. I enjoyed the vocals as well. All the voices have captured that pure Irish quality with the slight ornamentation that Celtic singers possess—even though the singers on this CD are American. Mary-Kate’s two original songs are quite effective, Dalriada and The Helmsman both show a strong songwriting ability that I hope continues. The guest musicians included the very talented Martin Doman on guitar and Irish whistle, equally talented Tess Smith and Rebekah Callaghan on fiddle, Jim Dunbar on Irish whistle, Ezra March on mandolin.
If I missed one aspect of Irish music while listening, it would be for the bodhran, the Irish drum. I found after a while, I longed for some bass response, since most of the arrangements were comprised of higher pitched instruments, and some of the songs could have had more gravitas with the anchoring of a bass or low pitched drum. But this is a small concern, and perhaps my personal taste for this kind of music. The CD gives you such a feeling of peace, joy and wonder at their energy and musicianship—you’ll be humming Seasons’ tunes long after you’ve turned off your player. Their website is: www.seasonsmusic.com . However, when I visited, I didn’t get much information. I hope they begin to expand their site to give visitors some background on the group and updates.