Altan's latest album is called The Widening Gyre - tracks from which formed the core of their sell-out performance at the Wiltshire Music Centre on Friday night. They say the album's title describes their 30-year journey from small beginnings in Donegal to globally known roots superstars.
The longevity of the band is testament to, not only their talented musicianship, but also that they know how to throw a party.
Good cheer, great tunes and jokes about WB Yates made for a memorable evening. The five piece are equally adept at beautiful, mournful lamentations and wild Irish jigs, sometimes slipping seamlessly from one style to the other without pausing for breath.
Founder Mairéad Ní Mhaonaigh led proceedings with her high, fine and soulful voice, matched by her fiddle playing, often stepping up for a dueling duet with fellow fiddler Ciaran Tourish.
One of the highlights was The Road Home, written by accordion player Martin Tourish, when he was a teenager and recently unearthed in a pile of forgotten manuscripts. The slow tune meandered beautifully and movingly.
Guitarist Mark Kelly contributed several fast and joyful jigs and bouzouki player Ciarán Curran underpinned the proceedings with a solid rhythm.
The Widening Gyre was recorded in Nashville to explore the connections between traditional Irish music and the roots music of the Appalachians, bluegrass and Country and we were treated to a Tennessee-tinged version of The Gypsy Davy, variations of which are well-known on both sides of the Atlantic. A testament to an ever-evolving and resilient genre - Altan's music may have ancient roots but its future is in safe hands.
There are only so many hours in a day and only so many gigs we can get to. We'd really like to expand our national coverage of the live scene as it remains the life blood of music.
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