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NewGrange

A Christmas Heritage – 2005 (Compass)

Reviewed by Brian Wahlert

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CDs by NewGrange

NewGrange, an all-star acoustic sextet, came together for a holiday concert tour in 1998 that yielded this CD, now being re-released. "Christmas Eve" is one of the best tracks - a bright, cheery acoustic song arranged by the band. The song begins with a wonderful build - Philip Aaberg leads off with tinkling piano, and Todd Phillips joins in with a syncopated bass rhythm. Mike Marshall strums his mandolin next, and Darol Anger adds violin. Tim O'Brien plays much of the melody on bouzouki, and his occasional scat singing provides a hint of whimsy.

The band is named for an O'Brien song about a 5,000-year-old burial chamber in Ireland that has a window placed to align with the sunrise on the winter solstice, so that the tomb is briefly lit on the shortest day of each year. O'Brien also lends his vocals to a jazzy version of "Go Tell It on the Mountain," another highlight. Alison Brown plays banjo and guitar - her highlight is her self-written guitar song, "The Promise of Spring."

If you enjoy creative, exploratory acoustic music that ranges from bluegrass to jazz, you'll enjoy this.