CELTIC MUSIC is thought of as Irish, but the tradition also flourishes in Scotland, Brittany and Galicia, as well as in certain neighborhoods in Chicago, New York, Toronto, Hartford and Baltimore.
Kornog is a hybrid quartet that includes three sparkling Breton instrumentalists and a Scottish singer/bouzouki player. The music, too, is a hybrid: gavotte dance tunes from Brittany and Scottish ballads.
On the sprightly "Premiere," recorded live on the group's first American tour, the dance tunes especially develop that characteristically overwhelming Celtic momentum.
"On Seven Winds," recorded in a French studio last March, is a more elegant affair, but James McMenemy's English-language vocals on the long ballad "Sir Aldingar" and the yearning love song "Helen of Kirkconnel" are spellbinding.
The Irish Tradition, formed in Washington and now based in Baltimore, is justly credited with inspiring the American Celtic music renaissance. The trio's new album, "The Times We Had," contains no surprises but maintains its high standards.
The sheer virtuosity of fiddler Brendan Mulvihill and accordionist Billy McComiskey on the five instrumental medleys is impressive, but all too soon becomes an end in itself. Their talents are much better applied on the two more elegant O'Carolan compositions and on the four songs featuring vocalist Andy O'Brien. McComiskey's accordion acquires a wistful, melancholy tone, so expressive it seems like a second vocal behind O'Brien on "A Lady Fair."
KORNOG -- "Premiere: Music from Brittany" (Green Linnet, SIF 1055); "On Seven Winds" (Green Linnet, SIF 1062); appearing with the Breton duo, Sergei Desaunay & Gilles Le Bigot, for both a concert and a Breton dance Sunday at the Chevy Chase Presybterian Church.
THE IRISH TRADITION -- "The Times We've Had" (Green Linnet, SIF 1063); appearing Sunday afternoon at American University's Gray Hall and Monday night at Takoma Cafe.