A Suburban City Girl in A Small Town

Moment by moment……

Acoustically Irish

on October 7, 2013

I’ve always loved Irish music and the fast paced beat it brings. But to be honest with you, I really haven’t paid much attention until recently. As I’m heading to England on October 17th and then onto Ireland on October 21 to meet family and help my mom fulfill a lifelong dream of hers, Celtic music has definitely been playing in the current soundtrack of my life. And I’ve been listening to nothing but for weeks now.

So with that, I’m going to attempt to write my first music review on a brand new CD I bought this weekend. It’s called “Acoustically Irish” by Ryan Kelly and Neil Byrne of Celtic Thunder fame.

I heard about the Acoustic By Candlelight tour while search for more Ryan Kelly music. This was after I bought his solo CD “In Time” recorded back in 2010. YouTube fed my hunger for more of this type of music – beautiful, honest, simple, and NO auto-tune to be found! Between YouTube and Twitter, I caught wind of a CD being released by two of my favorite members of Celtic Thunder (under the name of Acoustic By Candlelight) and could not wait to get it.

I was not disappointed!

First of all, I think I’ve fallen in love with guitar music. Well, that’s not really a quality statement because I’ve always loved guitar music. I remember sitting outside of a cafe in Rome listening to a young man playing his guitar and thinking how much he must love that thing. He played it with such purity. So it’s so surprise that I liked this CD at the first listen. There’s loads of brilliant guitar playing (is there any guitar Neil Byrne can’t play?), lovely percussion and violins provided by a few band members. Vocally, there’s a unique and beautiful harmony between Ryan Kelly and Neil Byrne. While Neil provides the structure and the bones, Ryan provides the heart and the emotions.

So I thought I’d talk about a few of the tracks that caught my attention.

The CD opens up with “Don’t Go” which is merely an invitation. Sit down, put your feet up, grab a pint and just enjoy the music. That’s exactly the mood it sets preparing you for the remaining 10 tracks.

“The Water is Wide” is a favorite of mine here as this is a song I did with my Chamber Singers group back in the day (when I was in high school). Neil does a lovely rendition of this song, keeping it simple yet making it memorable. I always enjoy the quieter songs Neil sings because I enjoy the total range in his voice. He makes it sound effortless and the effect is beautiful.

Listening to the song “Back Home in Derry”, I’m very much reminded of  “The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald”. I love the sea, sea tales and find their tragedies most mournful. Ryan takes this song, and makes it his own story/song with strong vocals and husky tones. One thing I really liked in this song was the marriage between Neil’s guitars and Nicole’s violin. There are some measures where one cannot be distinguished from another and it creates a very lovely celtic undertone for this song. Like so many other songs, this song transforms me aboard the ship being sung about. I feel the icy wind in my face and the desperation of those around me. This song was a real plus for me and very well done.

Adding a bit of Americana to the CD is a cover of Van Morrison’s “Brown Eyed Girl”. While this cover hits all the marks for being well done, it is the opinion of this review that no one can do this song and make me want to get up and dance to it like Van Morrison. Still enjoyable, though.

Probably my absolute favorite song on the CD is “No Man’s Land”. Ryan starts out acapella and I cannot say enough about how brave this is in a world where everything is so auto-tuned!! I’m such a huge fan of this. There is little the accompanies him on his journey through this song. Sitting besides a grave of a fallen soldier, Ryan talks to him, allowing us to imagine along with him the life of Private William McBride and those he left behind to fight. Ryan brings this young man to life and lovingly buries him with all the honor a soldier is due. This is one of two the songs on the CD that’s hard for me to get through without shedding a tear or two.

The other song that gets me is “The Fields of Athenry”. Again, a quiet haunting weaves through this song as it tells the story of young man imprisoned for stealing corn during the time of the great famine. Listening to it over and over, I found a love song in the midst of this tale. A young man bids his wife to raise their son well and she, in turn, stays as close to him as possible until he leaves. Neil and Ryan tackle this with perfect harmony that increases in intensity with each verse. Nicole’s lonely violin speaks throughout and I feel this song will sink into my heart and be with me for a long time.

The other songs on this CD are not to be overlooked in listening however, I’ll leave you to draw your own opinions. Admittedly, I am a huge fan of Celtic Thunder. However, as much as I love it when the guys come together, it is their solo work that has captivated me. Ryan and Neil tell their Celtic stories with almost every song on this CD and yet it sounds nothing like Celtic Thunder. We get to see a side of them that is quite vulnerable musically. This is one of those projects that has me hoping and praying for a second ABC CD!

I truly believe we’ve only seen the tip of the iceberg where the talent and symmetry of Ryan Kelly and Neil Byrne are concerned. I look forward to more from these gents. So buy it! Download it! Listen to it! Acoustic By Candlelight’s “Acoustically Irish” is definitely worth it!



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