Artist: The Elders
Album: Wanderin’ Life & Times
Pints (out of 4): an enthusiastic 4!
"Irish music has it’s rovers, bluegrass has it’s wanderers, and The Elders have an incredible new album out that bridges that gulf nicely. The album is entitled Wanderin’ Life & Times and it is without a doubt my favorite cd from 2011. This Kansas City band has been together for 14 years and eight albums (and I can’t believe I only recently became aware of them). On the 11 songs, you will hear rock, bluegrass and country music generously sprinkled with Celtic riffs and themes.
The cd opens with “Building a Boat”, a great anthem song with a sweet opening fiddle lick. Next comes the ska-influenced “Station Number Nine”. This one was a little unexpected and I was really curious where the album was headed. By song 3, “Forever Friend”, I was hooked. A very catchy song with great vocals that would seemingly be comfortable on a country or Celtic music station. I could say something good about every song, but track 6- entitled “Appalachian Paddy”- is the highlight of the album. It tells the story of young Dinny McCann, a young fiddler who emigrates from Ireland and winds up somewhere in Appalachia playing music with the locals. As the 8 minute song transitions from Ireland to America the music shifts from Irish traditional to bluegrass. Wow. Very clever song that will absolutely get your feet moving. The album has a few surprises too. The most notable is some interesting vocal work on Common Man as well as the aforementioned Ska song. Oh yeah, there are pipes as well. Yay!
Go out and buy this album. Afterwards, find out where they’re playing and go see them. I can only imagine how good of a show they put on. I didn’t notice any dates in the NW coming up, but I’ll be checking their website often just in case. The Elders play roving (ok, wanderin’) music with the best of them and before too long I’m sure more of their music will make it’s way into my collection."
“Wanderin’ Life and Times” – The Elders – CD Review
By Mark Sisti Mohawk Valley Irish Cultural Events
"There are basically two problems a band like the Elders faces when recording a CD. First, there is the standard they have set for themselves with their previous recordings, all of which were very good, and the most recent of which, “Gael Day,” was brilliant. The second problem is that The Elders have earned their reputation largely on the basis of their live shows, which are unparalleled, but which create an atmosphere that can be difficult to capture in a studio. Fortunately, on their latest CD, “Wanderin‘ Life and Times,” neither of these problems appears to have posed any obstacle. With a perfect amalgam of Celtic, bluegrass, pop and folk/Americana influences, “Wanderin‘ Life and Times” is a worthy successor to “Gael Day,” with strong story-telling and poetic lyrics backed by carefully thought-out musical accompaniment, at the same time capturing much of the energy and eclecticism of a live Elders show.
The Elders don‘t just write songs, they tell stories, and the collection on this CD is further proof of that. “Building a Boat” wastes no time informing us that, yes, this is an Elders‘ album, with the inescapable chorus and irresistible hook that reels us in immediately. “Forever Friend” reminds us of the unbreakable bonds between lifelong companions, while the title track, “Wanderin‘ Life & Times” gives us a tale of journeys both spiritual and physical.
One of the real standouts in this album, “Appalachian Paddy” tells the story of Dinny McCann “a sliver of a man” who emigrates to America. Away from home, friends and family, Dinny is reinvigorated by the redemptive power of traditional Irish music. As the song breaks into a combination of kitchen Ceili/American mountain music, the unmistakable connection between Irish music and the music of the Appalachian Hills is made clear.
Those familiar with the Elders know that there will be (at least) one song on every CD that will bring a lump to the throat. From the opening plaintive strains of the whistle, that song on “Wanderin‘” is clearly “Please Come Home,” an evocative and heartfelt tribute to the men and women serving in the armed forces. Another highlight among an album of highlights would have to be “Orange Plank Road,” a powerful homage to the site of some of the Civil War‘s heaviest fighting, with a snare drum backdrop setting an appropriate marching counterpoint.
While some songs may evoke memories of past Elders‘ tunes, it would be wrong to call The Elders predictable. Certainly nothing in their previous catalogue would have led anyone to expect the driving Ska-tinged “Station #9.” Similarly, “Common Man” builds upon an infectious but decidedly un-Elder-like groove that shows once again that Tommy Sutherland and Norm Dahlor can create a pocket as well as any rhythm section recording today.
The Elders know what works for them, they know what their army of fans is looking for in their music, and they come through for them every time. Given that, it would be easy to dismiss their recordings as formulaic. It would also be a mistake. This Kansas City powerhouse is still growing musically, as evidenced by “Wanderin‘ Life & Times.”