Several years ago, the BBC aired a series of television programs, hosted by Scottish fiddler Aly Bain, that matched several leading American acoustic and country musicians with their British Isles counterparts. A pair of soundtrack CDs of these sessions was issued in the UK on Iona Records, and the 15 tracks on this Ceili release are drawn from those discs. Ringleaders include Bain, Jerry Douglas, Sharon Shannon, Ricky Skaggs, Ronan Browne, Michael Doucet and Radney Foster.
It's no revelation that one of the strongest and thickest roots of American country music reaches directly across the Atlantic to Britain, but it's less well-known, at least in the U.S., that country music has long been popular among traditional Celtic and British musicians.
The mutual respect and admiration between both sides on this disc is clear and unmistakable. Attempts at genre mixing often end up muddled, disjointed and unsatisfying, but in this case the result is a set of tunes that blends seamlessly and vibrates with energy, especially in the contributions of the female vocalists: Sharon White, Karen Matheson, Nanci Griffith, Maura O'Connell, Rosanne Cash and, especially, Eddi Reader's joyful romp through "Hummingbird." The music is as much fun to listen to as it must have been to make.