If there is any band around today that proudly carries the music of Ireland's flag, it's The Chieftains. The core of the group has been together for nearly 50 years, helping spread traditional Irish music all around the world. What's helped them retain their vitality though is their willingness to go beyond the limits of the label of traditional though. For a bunch of old men, they've shown time and time again that an old dog can learn new tricks, playing with a wide array of artists such as Ultravox, Carlos Núñez, Van Morrison, Ashley MacIssac, Bela Fleck, Siobhán O'Brien, Moya Brennan, Mark Knopfler, Loreena McKennitt, Mick Jagger, Elvis Costello, Roger Daltrey, Nanci Griffith, Tom Jones, Sinéad O'Connor, James Galway, The Corrs, Art Garfunkel, Sting, Rosanne Cash, Jim White, Tom Partington, Ziggy Marley, Lyle Lovett, Jackson Browne, Eros Ramazzotti, Mike Gordon, and many others in an equally wide range of genres that they manage still, somehow, to connect home to their roots in Ireland.
Their latest album, which came out earlier this month, is titled San Patricio, and for its inspiration it draws upon an amazing story from the Mexican-American war that is surely not in your history book. I know what you're saying, what the heck do the Chieftains have to do with playing Mexican inflected music?!!? I know this, because I was thinking the same thing when I first found out the basics of the album. Come to find out, there was an Irish battalion who decided that the Mexicans they were ordered to kill so the United States could take their land weren't so bad after all and switched sides, fighting alongside the Mexicans in their doomed attempt to defend their land. The story is explained in much more detail in the liner notes, but suffice to say, it's quite interesting.
That being said, Paddy Moloney and company have joined together with guitarist Ry Cooder, Lila Downs, and some Mexican counterparts to recreate the feel of the music that might have been brought to life with this strange union of soldiers originally ordered to kill each other. The result, a wondrous mix of Mexican and Irish flavors that you'd never believe would work, but do, and do so beautifully.
and some older favorites:
The Chieftains - Banish Misfortune/Gillian's Apples : The Chieftains 2