In "The Loch Tay Boat Song," Andy M. Stewart sang the lovely lyric "My heart's a boat in tow." Stewart, a Scot, and the Irish musician Gerry O'Beirne voyaged around the Celtic world Monday at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Silver Spring, ever in fealty to the charms of their musical heritage.
Stewart revealed the hallmarks of Scottish music early on: unattainable women and attainable booze. In "The Queen of Argyle," a song he wrote in traditional style, he celebrated them both, with his resonant voice against the determined rhythms of his and O'Beirne's guitars. In the moving "If I Were a Blackbird," desire and injustice blended in the boldly delivered verses in which he lamented his rejection.
His voice, like many of the best voices of his countrymen, often evoked the call of the pipes, particularly on "Gallant Murray." O'Beirne played 12-string guitar on this one, going out with a fusillade of triple strums.
O'Beirne stayed in the background for most of Stewart's songs during the show, sponsored by the Institute of Musical Traditions. But in a solo set he revealed a fine voice and imaginative playing, particularly on a lengthy, exploratory instrumental brimming with sitar-like chords and modal motifs that hung like the ether of a drunken dream. Baltimore fiddler Rosie Shipley joined him on a few numbers, including a set of tunes from Cape Breton that took the audience to another part of the Celtic world. And, as always at the institute's shows, the encore was a high point, as all three musicians tore through a lively version of "The Ramblin' Rover."
-- Pamela Murray Winters