Black Music Matters Festival

The Chieftains

Down The Old Plank Road: The Nashville Sessions – 2002 (RCA Victor/BMG)

Reviewed by Brian Steinberg

CDs by The Chieftains

Irish celebres The Chieftains branch out from their native isle and take a drive through Nashville on their latest outing, marking the band's 40th anniversary. The results find The Chieftains taking a page from the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band's series of "Will The Circle Be Unbroken" discs, which match up a core combo of master musicians with a bevy of local heroes.

Some songs are classic collaborations (Martina McBride's take on "I'll Be All Smiles Tonight" or Buddy and Julie Miller on "Country Blues"). On some others, a little more grit is called for (Lyle Lovett's turn on "Don't Let Your Deal Go Down"). And then again, it's unclear how much of Nashville's rawer side would go down well alongside Paddy Moloney's tin whistle and uillean pipes or Matt Molloy's flute (John Hiatt's moondog howl sounds out of place on the otherwise sterling "Down The Old Plank Road"). With guests ranging from Alison Krauss to Gillian Welch and David Rawlings to Earl Scruggs to Ricky Skaggs, fans of roots music are bound to find something they'll like to listen to again and again. The production is lush, and the instrumentation can't be beat.

The Chieftains disc offers a rollicking ride over and around much of country's roots. While you won't get much corn in your whiskey here, you can be assured of a good stiff drink nonetheless.