The Chieftains have collaborated with everyone from Ziggy Marley to Madonna, but this 50th-anniversary album is the Celtic traditionalists' first-ever foray into indie rock. The Decemberists' Colin Meloy spins a springy version of Bob Dylan's "When the Ship Comes In," Bon Iver's Justin Vernon croons a ghostly murder ballad, and alt-country bands like Punch Brothers reel 'n' jig it up nicely. Indie rock's cult of schlubby singing doesn't always merge with the Chieftains' crystalline professionalism.
Inveterate collaborators, the Chieftains celebrate their 50th anniversary with a new generation of roots acts. That most are drawn from Americana circles allows Paddy Moloney et al to emphasise folk's transatlantic trade, with Bon Iver lamenting ethereally on "Down in the Willow Garden", an Appalachian murder ballad of Irish descent. The Punch Brothers mix bluegrass mandolins with tin whistles, the Carolina Chocolate Drops make the link between hoedown and jig, and the Civil Wars' harmonies fit snugly with harp and pipes.
The Chieftains operate under the idea that most American popular music descends from Irish traditions brought across the Atlantic by generations of immigrants, up to and including the band members themselves. Their longevity—five decades and counting—is testament to the persuasiveness of that notion, as is their impressive breadth of collaborations over the past 20 years. In addition to drafting such Irish artists as Sinead O’Connor and Van Morrison to sing with them, they’ve also worked with the likes of Willie Nelson, Mick Jagger, Tom Jones, The Rolling Stones and Ry Cooder, among too many others to name.
After jamming with Linda Ronstadt and Ry Cooder on 2010’s San Patricio, the Celtic-music legends recruit a younger roster of stars to mark their 50th anniversary on Voice of Ages. The dreamy ”Come All Ye Fair and Tender Ladies” showcases Miranda Lambert and her Pistol Annies, while the Civil Wars connect Ireland to Appalachia on ”Lily Love.” Prettier still is classic murder ballad ”Down in the Willow Garden,” featuring the characteristically spectral vocals of Bon Iver. B Best Tracks:Mini-epic The Chieftains ReunionDelicately harmonized Peggy Gordon .
The Chieftains, who celebrate their 50th anniversary this year, are still the world's best-loved Irish folk band, both for their superb musicianship and their sense of adventure – working with anyone from Mick Jagger to Alison Krauss or Chinese ensembles. Their last album, San Patricio, recorded with Mexican musicians, was their bravest work to date. This new set has a fashionable cast list, but is more patchy.
Voice of Ages marks the Chieftains 50th anniversary. Initially, Paddy Moloney wanted to get all the living members of the band together for an album-length jam on "Toss the Feathers." Concord and co-producer T-Bone Burnett had a different idea. Advance label and press hype crowed about the radical approach of this album because of its collaborations with indie rockers -- nonsense.
Mellifluous one moment, rip-roaring the next, this is a job well done. Colin Irwin 2012 Another day, another Chieftains album festooned with celebrity guests. Paddy Moloney’s eager eye for a marketing opportunity occasionally incites cynicism, and it’s tempting to scour the cast list here – Bon Iver, The Low Anthem, The Decemberists, Paolo Nutini, The Civil Wars and Carolina Chocolate Drops are amongst the collaborators – and assume this is merely an attempt by the Chieftains to delay their dotage by attaching themselves to some of the groovier names on the block, in the style of their most successful Chieftains album, The Long Black Veil.