KEVIN BURKE & CAL SCOTT "Across the Black River" Loftus

Friday, May 11, 2007

KEVIN BURKE & CAL SCOTT"Across the Black River"Loftus

KEVIN BURKE IS ONE of the greatest Irish fiddlers of the past half-century, but he has lived in Ireland for only five of his 57 years. He was raised in London by parents from County Sligo, and he has lived in Portland, Ore., since 1979. He is thus a perfect exemplar for the far-flung Irish diaspora and weaves the multinational strands of today's "Irish" music into his impressive new album, "Across the Black River," a collaboration with Portland film composer Cal Scott.

Scott composed three of the instrumental album's tunes, including the spellbinding "The Lighthouse Keeper's Waltz," and plays graceful guitar, mandolin and bouzouki throughout. But the dominant voice is that of Burke's violin, which never wavers in pitch or timbre but sings out with a confidence that allows the listener to relax. He plays with less ornamentation than in his younger days with the legendary Dublin group the Bothy Band, but he distills every melody to a full-toned, just-right line.

A nine-minute medley of reels dedicated to Burke's Irish American fiddler hero, Michael Coleman, includes the tune that provides the title of Ken Loach's new film, "The Wind That Shakes the Barley." Backing Burke and Scott on the medley are flutist Michael McGoldrick from the Scottish band Capercaillie, accordionist Johnny Connolly from the Portland trio Bridgetown and bassist Phil Baker from the Portland big band Pink Martini.

Burke underscores the Irish-American connection by playing bluegrass legend Bill Monroe's "Evening Prayer Blues," first as a solo-fiddle lament and then as a trio number that seems to echo County Sligo, southeast London, eastern Kentucky and the Columbia River all at once.

-- Geoffrey Himes

Appearing Sunday at St. Mark Presbyterian Church in Rockville.

Listen to an audio clip of Kevin Burke and Cal Scott

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