Superstar Irish accordionist and visionary Sharon Shannon’s return to The Burren Backroom series highlights this month’s offerings of Irish/Celtic music in the Greater Boston area (and vicinity).
Shannon, who will play shows at 7:30 and 10 p.m. on Aug. 7 at the Backroom, has been a leading innovator for the Irish accordion, bringing it into the realms of Appalachian, country, rock, hip-hop, reggae and Portuguese music – and, on her most recent album “Sacred Earth,” African music. She’s also performed with the RTE Concert Orchestra, Jackson Brown, Christy Moore, Sinead O’Connor, and many other luminaries, including Steve Earle, most memorably on his hit song “Galway Girl.”
On Aug. 15, Scotland’s Old Blind Dogs come to the Backroom for a 7:30 p.m. appearance. Through more than a quarter-century and 13 albums, OBD (Jonny Hardie, fiddle; Donald Hay, percussion; Aaron Jones, vocals, bouzouki, guitar; Ali Hutton, pipes, whistles, guitar) has put forth a rootsy yet cosmopolitan sound, definitively Scottish with hints of African, Caribbean, and American/old-timey.
RUNA, which styles itself as a “Celtic roots” band, pays another visit to the Backroom on Aug. 22 at 7 p.m. Observing its 10th anniversary, the international quintet of Shannon Lambert-Ryan (vocals, step-dancing), Fionán de Barra (guitar), Cheryl Prashker (percussion), Zach White (guitar, vocals, mandolin), and Maggie White (fiddle, mandolin) fuses Irish and Scottish music with Americana/roots, adding harmonies, rhythms and tints of of jazz, bluegrass, flamenco and blues. RUNA has won multiple honors at the Irish Music Awards and Independent Music Awards, and has built a strong following in New England on the strength of its appearances at, among other places, the New Bedford Folk Festival.
New to the series is House of Hamill, which will perform on Aug. 23 at 7 p.m. Named for an Irish reel composed by fiddler Ed Reavy, House of Hamill is a duo of considerable pedigree: Brian Buchanan (fiddle, guitar, mandolin, vocals) of Enter the Haggis and Rose Baldino (fiddle, vocals) of the now-defunct Burning Bridget Cleary. Thrown together in somewhat desperate circumstances at a concert four years ago, Buchanan and Baldino found that they clicked enough to become partners in music and, eventually, matrimony. Equally talented as classical violinists as they are traditional-style fiddlers, the two combine original and contemporary material with tunes and songs from the folk tradition, bringing with them rock, pop, and other influences cultivated over the years.
Scottish trio Cantrip closes out the Backroom schedule for the month on Aug. 29 at 7:30 p.m. Originating from the Edinburgh folk scene of the 1990s, the band underwent a significant change several years ago and emerged with a leaner yet still powerful sound. Read an interview with Cantrip guitarist/mandolinist/vocalist Eric McDonald, a Boston-area native, elsewhere in this edition.
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• Club Passim in Harvard Square will feature a concert of pipes and harp by Scottish sisters Brighde and Mairi Chaimbeul on Aug. 7. Brighde – who won the BBC 2 “Young Folk Award” in 2016 – began learning pipes at the age of seven, and over time has incorporated elements from Cape Breton, Ireland, and even Eastern Europe into her playing style while collaborating with prominent performers such as Carlos Nunez, John McSherry and Ross Ainslie. Mairi, a graduate of Berklee College of Music, is familiar to many Boston-area audiences through her partnership with fiddler Jenna Moynihan; well-versed in traditional harp, she has gone on to explore jazz-influenced, improvisatory styles.
Fresh from their appearance at this year’s Boston Irish Festival, bluegrass-folk-Irish performers JigJam will play at Passim on Aug. 14. The band’s members – Jamie McKeogh, Cathal Guinan, Daithi Melia, and Gavin Strappe – have extensive traditional Irish credentials, having collectively earned more than 20 All-Ireland titles at Fleadh Cheoil competitions. To this they add an appealing blend of bluegrass and Americana styles and a lively stage presence, not to mention dapper wardrobes – a combination that, along with their two albums, has brought them acclaim well beyond Ireland.
For well more than a decade, the Boston Harbor Scottish Fiddle School, held in August on Thompson Island, has brought together leading Scottish and Cape Breton musicians from abroad, as well as the Boston area, to share their skills and knowledge with students of all ages. And in recent years, the school’s faculty has given a “Redux” concert at Club Passim to close out the weeklong camp. This year’s show will feature fiddlers Bruce MacGregor, Pete Clark, Troy MacGillivray and Anne Hooper, pianist Andy Imbrie and guitarist Eamon Sefton.
The Quebecois tradition finds a 21st-century milieu in Les Poules a Colin, who will appear at Passim on Aug. 29. The band (Sarah Marchand, piano; Béatrix Méthé, fiddle; Éléonore Pitre, guitars; Marie Savoie-Levac, electric bass; Colin Savoie-Levac,mandolin, guitar, bouzouki, banjo) offers some familiar characteristics of French-Canadian music, including the distinctive rhythm and foot percussion, setting these against a modern, indie-type groove.
The above shows begin at 8 p.m.
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• The Irish Cultural Centre of New England in Canton will host folk-rockers Hermitage Green on Aug. 12 at 6:30 p.m. The Limerick-based quintet is fronted by the Murphy brothers, Dan (lead vocals, dobro, guitar, keyboard) and Barry (vocals, electric bass), with Darragh Griffin (vocals, guitar), Darragh Graham (banjo, djembe, vocals) and Dermot Sheedy (percussion, bodhran). Griffin, who writes most of their songs, has cited legendary singer-songwriters John Martyn and Nick Drake as among his inspirations, but the band also has delved into more latter-day pop-rock material evoking acts such as Florence and the Machine, Timbaland and Mumford and Sons. Hermitage Green has released one full-length album, “Save Your Soul,” and three EPs, most recently “Gold & Rust.”
Kern, a trio from Louth, will perform at the ICCNE on Aug. 25 at 7:30 p.m.; they’ll also be in The Burren’s Backroom [see above] on Aug. 24 at 7 p.m. While their music has strong ties to the Irish tradition – especially through the presence of Brendan McCreanor’s uilleann pipes and whistle and Barry Kieran’s fiddle – there is an unmistakable contemporary folk dynamic represented in the vocals and guitar of S.J. McArdle. Dan Neely, writing for The Irish Echo, praised their 2016 debut album “False Deceiver” as “an intriguing release.”
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• The annual “Celtic Roots and Branches” concert series organized by WGBH “Celtic Sojourn” host Brian O’Donovan will touch down at the Shalin Liu Performance Center in Rockport on Aug. 26 at 5 p.m. This year’s edition will include widely-loved Irish singer-songwriter Robbie O’Connell, accompanied by Cape Cod fiddler Rose Clancy; guitarist-vocalist Keith Murphy, whose traditional repertoire represents the melting pots of New England and Eastern Canada; Boston-area resident Joey Abarta, regarded as one of the best uilleann pipers in the US; superlative teenage fiddler Haley Richardson; and dancers Kevin Doyle and Evelyn Miller.
• The Mostly Celtic Quartet – the duo of John and Theresa Bielecki Owens along with Denya Levine and Julie Charland – will present an evening of Celtic and seafaring music on Aug. 16 at 6:30 p.m. at the Truro Library’s Summer Concerts on the Green series [ /TruroSummerConcertsOnTheGreen].