Traditional Irish music will never threaten Boyz II Men or Kenny G at the top of the charts. But this warm, rock-star-speckled project seems certain to give Ireland's eminent acoustic ensemble a higher profile here in the States.
Guest performers, including Sting, Sinéad O'Connor and the Rolling Stones, sit in with the Chieftains to create an evocative, moody mélange of mostly ancient Irish tunes. One of the reasons the album is so effective is that producer and big Chieftain Paddy Moloney has perfectly matched the song to the artist. Even if you've tuned out O'Connor lately because of her penchant for personal screeds, give her a listen here: On "The Foggy Dew," her vocals sound as wistfully beautiful as the Galician pipes played by guest instrumentalist Carlos Nuñez.
But where would a predominantly Irish gathering be without a lot of full-tilt fun and revelry? To that end, there's Mr. Swivel Hips, Tom Jones, who unleashes his lounge-lizard baritone on a medley of "Tennessee Waltz" melded with Moloney's original "Tennessee Mazurka," which was recorded at the late Frank Zappa's home studio in L.A. The party winds down with the Stones jamming to "The Rocky Road to Dublin," where Keith Richards hammers out the famous chords to "(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction," apropos of nothing, in the middle of the song! With this hearty mixture of irreverence and respect for tradition, the listening just gets better and better. (RCA Victor)