Black Music Matters Festival

The Chieftains

Further Down the Old Plank Road – 2003 (RCA Victor/BMG)

Reviewed by Jon Weisberger

CDs by The Chieftains

Like its successful predecessor, this album matches Irish musical masters The Chieftains with American friends from country-related musical styles on songs and tunes which have at least some vague cross-Atlantic connections. But this time out, the net is cast in a slightly direction, so aside from Patty Loveless, who delivers a luminous "Three Little Babes," there are no mainstream country stars of today present.

That's not a criticism - the new guests, from John Prine to Allison Moorer (who toured with the Chieftains at the beginning of 2003) to pop-bluegrass sensation Nickel Creek to classic country star Don Williams and beyond acquit themselves wonderfully - but it does affect the flavor of the album, making it more single-mindedly rootsy than the first album. Similarly, there are even fewer familiar tunes on the second set, and more medleys that play around with the similarities between tunes.

The different approach makes for a more illuminating, if less ingratiating collection, and suggests that the group was interested in more than simply repeating a proven formula - to the extent of a kind of ghostly appearance by the late Chet Atkins on "Chief O'Neill's Hornpipe," originally recorded in 1992. Still, despite the differences, this hands-across-the-ocean collaboration is every bit as enjoyable and satisfying as the first.