Breton is the latest album from Dannsair, a band currently based in Santa Barbara, California that comprises Russ Doherty on guitar, Linda Holland on flute, Jocelyn Tipple on whistle, Rachel Galvin on violin and Karl Burrelsmann on fiddle - Rachel Galvin and Andrea Arredondo also provide vocals. Russ Doherty's family was originally from Ennistymon, having left for Canada after the famine of 1849, eventually making their way to Chicago and then ending up in California. His mission with Dannsair is to keep traditional Celtic music alive in Southern California and completing 120 gigs a year certainly helps to fulfil this task.  Russ explains  "we started playing every Thursday at Dargan’s Irish Pub in Santa Barbara about 15 years ago when my daughter Siobhan turned 11 and decided to take Irish step dancing lessons. She was the dancer, flute player and singer for 6 years before she left to go to college. She still performs 30-some gigs a year with us and has played/sung on all of the albums." This makes them a very tight group who get ample time to try out their material. This may explain why they have gone for a live studio recording on this album.

This has been a recent trend with many bands recording live in studio, requiring arrangements to be well worked out in advance.  Russ explains that they do about 3 takes per track and choose the one with the best feel. The opening track Breton is modelled on a Breton bouree, a Celtic dance in ¾ time from the coast of France and is a delicate and well arranged piece.  Likewise the opening song which is a self composition called The Old Oak Tree is also an evocative number with cello and violin underscoring it beautifully. Inspired by the playing of Donogh Hennessey from Lúnasa they use a certain amount of studio technique to give a more percussive feel to the tracks.  They do an admirable cover of a Pogues song called Love You Till The End and there is also an interesting tune halfway through the album called Illnaculin which is actually made up of three different tunes. The first part is a slow jig which Russ composed after visiting Garnish Island (Illnacullin) in the sheltered harbour of Glengarriff in Bantry Bay and they follow this with two reels they learned from Altan called Glory Reel and The Heathery Haystack.  Dannsair excel on the songs where the arrangements are well thought out and played and Breton is an album that has various influences throughout. If their live performance in Dargan’s every Thursday night is as good as this,  well they must be packing them in.  So get down there and have a listen and while you’re there pick up a copy of their album.  You can also check their website where all tracks are available to download.

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