Family ties distinguish two bands who will play at the Irish Cultural Centre in August

Two family-based bands with different approaches to Irish music will make appearances this month at the Irish Cultural Centre of New England in Canton.
On Aug. 3, the ICCNE will feature Michigan quartet Finvarra’s Wren as part of the center’s Tiny Cottage Series. And on Aug. 23, the Makem and Spain Brothers will perform an outdoor concert. Both events begin at 8 p.m.

Finvarra’s Wren is guitarist Jim Perkins, his wife Cheryl Burns, who plays Appalachian dulcimer and bodhran and shares vocals with her husband – both of them are regarded as stalwarts of the Detroit folk scene and widely praised for their singing – along with son Asher Perkins (concertina, accordion) and daughter Alison Perkins (fiddle, whistles); the two younger Perkinses have been regular top finishers in the Midwest Fleadh Cheoil.
Although its sound may be associated with the west coast of Ireland, the band draws on other Celtic and folk traditions, and also contemporary sources. Their repertoire is full of hornpipes, jigs and reels, and well-known Irish songs like “How Can I Live at the Top of a Mountain,” “Cold Blow and the Rainy Night” and “Sullivan’s John,” but they also might belt out the popular British traditional song “Country Life” a cappella, or do a cover of Michael Smith’s “Sister Clarissa.” The group has performed extensively in the US and Canada, including at the venerable Ark in Ann Arbor, Mich., the Baltimore Irish Festival, and the Dayton Celtic Festival. They have three recordings to their credit, their most recent being “Haven’t Yet Lost My Ears,” and a live album, “Dancing Mad in the Midnight Air,” is in the pipeline.
With more than two decades of performing experience under their collective belt, and strong roots in New England, The Makem and Spain Brothers have become a tradition unto themselves, proudly carrying on a musical legacy cherished and nurtured by their families for generations. Conor and Rory Makem are the sons of the late Tommy Makem, one of the major figures of the 20th-century folk music revival – and himself the son of another legendary singer, Sarah Makem. A similar love of old songs runs strong in the family of Liam and Mickey Spain, who along with the Makems have recast the tradition for the 21st century.
The Makem and Spain Brothers’ performances combine folk songs of Ireland, Scotland, Wales, and New England with original material, all delivered with a rousing, engaging style that has delighted audiences the world over. Since the two sets of brothers officially joined forces 10 years ago, they have released four CDs, and were featured as part of the soundtrack for the movie “The Kennedys: America’s Emerald Kings.”
For more information on these concerts, see the Irish Cultural Centre of New England website at