Album Review: San Patricio by The Chieftains Featuring Ry Cooder
Excellent, Based on 5 Critics
AllMusic - 80 Based on rating 8/10
While this album sounds like the Chieftains playing in fusion mode, it is so much more ambitious than anything they’ve attempted before. Some of the music here is contemporary, though much of it is over a century old; yet it reaches past its settings into the present day, telling of the indelibly rich meeting of two cultures oppressed by a third. It’s full of gorgeous songs of heroism, love, tragedy, and loss.
The Chieftains have enjoyed an extraordinary career for the best part of five decades, partly because of adventurous, high-profile projects like this. They have matched their rousing Irish traditional playing with styles from across the world, recording with Spanish musicians, Chinese folk bands or country, bluegrass and rock celebrities from Alison Krauss to Van Morrison or the Rolling Stones. Now comes arguably their most original album, an Irish-Latin concept piece that involves an impressive array of Mexican musicians and a handful of Americans, including Ry Cooder, who co-produced this intriguingly varied set with the Chieftains' Paddy Moloney.
An Irish bandleader and an American guitarist walk into a bar in Havana…. Sounds like the setup for an ethnic joke, but it’s actually the genesis of San Patricio, the new album by the Chieftains and Ry Cooder. Back in 1996, the Chieftains were in Cuba’s capital to record Santiago. After a session, their leader, Paddy Moloney, and Cooder were in that bar throwing back a few when the Irishman brought up the story of the San Patricio Battalion, a group of Irish soldiers who defected from the US Army to fight for Mexico during the Mexican-American War.
A transatlantic musical campaign whose eccentric heart makes it hard to resist. Ninian Dunnett 2010 In equal measure a curio, a lament, a history lesson and a hoedown, San Patricio is one of those albums that happily transcends its parts. If you only buy one Irish-Mexican album this year, in fact, The Chieftains and Ry Cooder should do you nicely. The Californian guitarist and the Irish folk heavyweights are seasoned collaborators as well as inveterate globetrotters.
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