Voice of Ages combines traditional Irish music with contemporary singers, songwriters, and producer [lastfm]T Bone Burnett[/lastfm]. The impressive talent roster that guests on this record includes – to name a few – [lastfm]Bon Iver[/lastfm], [lastfm]Imelda May[/lastfm], [lastfm]The Civil Wars[/lastfm], [lastfm]The Decemberists[/lastfm], and [lastfm]Paolo Nutini[/lastfm]. With only half of the guest singers listed here, Ages boasts a staggering amount of indie-rock credibility. Guest-oriented records too often falter under the promise of their tracklistings, but that’s a risk this album does not purport to take. Much like Burnett’s work with the untouchable soundtrack, O Brother, Where Art Thou?, the invited vocalists work within a clear premise that saves the album from sounding like favors cashed in.
Burnett and co-producer [lastfm]Paddy Maloney[/lastfm] illuminate the common ground of Irish folk and American bluegrass. Flutes and banjos coalesce in exuberant flurries, a marriage of instrumentation not unexpected though surprisingly pleasant. Imelda May sets the tone with “Carolina Rua,” her playful vocals skipping around swung guitar and jubilant hand-drums. This celebratory mood carries throughout the record, whether downcast (“Down In The Willow Garden,” with Bon Iver; “My Lagan Love,” with Lisa Hannigan), reflective (“Lily Love,” with The Civil Wars), or target-specific (“When The Ship Comes In,” with The Decemberists).
If flutes and hand drums strike you as fodder for new age muzac, The Chieftains might turn you off with the first note. But new age muzac is, for the most part, deserving of such skepticism; traditional folk music re-contextualized with non-traditional players who have always shown the utmost respect for tradition in music, however, deserves no such tarnishing. The Chieftains perform with those who do not look to shake things up, but to engage in a style of music that has unfalteringly entranced people for centuries. Traditional folk music has never sounded so refreshing.
1. Carolina Rua [Imelda May]
2. Come All Ye Fair and Tender Ladies [Pistol Annies]
3. Pretty Little Girl [Carolina Chocolate Drops]
4. Down in the Willow Garden [Bon Iver]
5. Lily Love [The Civil Wars]
6. The Lark in the Clear Air / Olam Punch [Punch Brothers]
7. My Lagan Love [Lisa Hannigan]
8. When the Ship Comes In [The Decemberists]
9. School Days Over [The Low Anthem]
10. The Frost is All Over [Punch Brothers]
11. Peggy Gordon [The Secret Sisters]
12. Hard Times Come Again No More [Paolo Nutini]
13. The Chieftains [REUNION]
14. The Chieftains in Orbit with NASA Astronaut [Cady Coleman]
15. Lundu [Carlos Nunez]