How It’s New York: Altan have been known to perform at the tiny NY pub Puck Fair, in addition to large venues like Symphony Space, where they performed in 2010. Their NY shows are always warm, and to see them at City Winery— one of my favorite venues– on March 8 to support their album The Poison Glen will be a treat.
How It’s Irish: This band are one of the most acclaimed trad bands, with fans that include Mick Jagger and Dolly Parton. They play a Donegal style, the county in Ulster that Mairéad Ní Mhaonaigh calls home.
A version of this article was first published in Irish Examiner USA, Feb. 21.
You can hear Mairead on the Feb. 26 podcast, with some of the music from the album (and a featured song!)
Discovering The “Heavenly Glen”
“To just bring the music that’s there. We don’t have to disguise it. It has been perfected from generation to generation, because it’s good.”
“It’s part of our psyche and makeup. When we were growing up, it was just a matter of fact, this is where Balor of the Evil Eye lived. These giants and fairies were real.”
“It’s misty and mysterious. You woudn’t know who’s lurking outside in the shadows.”
“Where you live really is what you’re about creatively. In a place like Donegal, which is so naturally beautiful and very very wild, the elements are ruling your life in a way still, even in this modern age. You realize how incredibly powerful that was years ago when people would have to walk everywhere.”
Dermot Byrne then joined the band. He and Mairéad later married – they are now divorced but still play together in the band, which I think is unique in musical performance history.
“It was like learning an accent, it was all so natural. It was all there at my doorstep.”
|The Poison Glen comes out on February 28, 2012, and is available through Compass Records.
Altan play City Winery, 155 Varick Street, on March 8.
Today, she says, a lot of the songs she got are sung on a nightly basis.
“If you love someone your love is upon them. You don’t say I love you, but my heart is within you.”
“Thinking in Gaelic and thinking in English are two different ways of thinking. If the language goes, a way of thinking goes that is intrinsically ours.”