Welcome to a site which celebrates music and culture from around the world
This is an article I originally published on the excellent
Irishabroad website. I have republished it here to set the scene for
the updated Ricky Skaggs and the Chieftains pictures
by John Cutliffe
I often despair at the quality of Irish and Celtic music people in the south are subjected to and pretend to myself that one day I will put on a show in Atlanta that will show people how it should be done. Of course I am as guilty as the rest by not getting off my pasty Irish backside and actually doing it. Then the inevitable happened. While I was looking up how to spell procrastination someone else showed us all a thing or two.
When Ricky Skaggs joined forces The Chieftains under a moonlit Chastain Park in downtown Atlanta there really was a bit of magic in the air. It was ‘down from the mountain' along the old bog road and straight into a packed Irish pub. Ricky brought his wife Sharon White, his daughter Molly and entire Kentucky Thunder ensemble while the Chieftains seemed to have scoured the world, gleaning Cornish cellist and all round whirling dervish, Caroline Lavelle, mandolin virtuoso Tim O Brien and two dancers from Canada, the incredible Jon and Nathan Pilatzke. On top of this we were treated to some local Irish dancers joining the band on stage. I especially enjoyed the sight of those who were only there to see Ricky Skaggs being surprised by these Irish icons who are in their 42nd year as a band.
The show kicked off with a solo performance from Ricky Skaggs who was then joined by his wife Sharon White and daughter Molly who at 19 charmed the growing audience and almost had her famous father in tears of pride. After a short break the rest of Ricky's band Kentucky Thunder arrived from a broken down bus to change gears and set the pace for the rest of the evening. This was bluegrass at its finest and even the bubbly Irish priest behind me forgot he wasn't a hillbilly for a while.
Then it was the turn of the Irish
This tour is a mixture of sadness and tribute with the recent loss of long time harpist Derek Bell. To pay tribute to him the band has been inviting guest harpists from 28 US cities to join them on stage during the show. An honor for any harpist to say the least and Nella Rigell from Atlanta gave a very moving performance of some O'Carolan tunes.
Despite the melancholy behind the tour this show is far from sad. Paddy Moloney is as funny as ever and his great sense of humor kept a smile on the faces of everyone on stage and in the audience. The band played tunes from many of their albums including some great crossover tracks from their last two albums Down the Old Plank Road and Further Down the Old Plank Road. The entire show was over 2 ½ hours but everyone wanted more.
Standing (and dancing) ovations were the order of the day in the normally
reserved amphitheater and when both The Chieftains and Kentucky thunder
joined forces for a medley of tunes at the end it was as if the Atlantic
Ocean had all but disappeared and everything was right with the world.