The internationally chart-busting vocal group Celtic Woman is the brainchild of David Downes, a composer/conductor who was involved with the American production of RIVERDANCE. He assembled the breathtaking talents of six strong Irish vocalists (the members have shifted several times) principally to perform for a 2004 PBS special filmed in Dublin. The accompanying album shot to the top of the World Music chart and stayed there for a record-breaking 81 weeks, replaced in 2006 by their own Christmas album. A third studio album released in 2007 then took over the number-one slot, as well as debuting on the Billboard Top 200 at number four. The group applies their ethereal harmonies not just to traditional fife-and-fiddle fare but to pop standards as well, making for a fun and eclectic experience.
Fueled by healthy public appetite for traditional melodies and quasi-ethnic roots, the crossover genre continues to flourish with this debut release from Ireland's Celtic Woman ensemble. The brainchild of Sharon Browne, Dave Kavanaugh (founders of Ireland's successful Celtic Collections label) and young Riverdance touring company musical director David Downes, CW's five young women musicians and vocalists offer up an ever pleasant, Eire-savvy fusion of folk, pop and classical influences. Avoiding the intrusive, club-beat/sex kitten window dressing of Bond, the ensemble tackles material that ranges from the expected (spare, lovely covers of "Danny Boy" and "Ave Maria") to more adventurous fare like "Nella Fantasia" (Ennio Morricone's vocal adaptation of his rapturous theme from The Mission) and Enya's "Orinoco Flow." Elsewhere, "The Butterfly" offers up fiddle-fueled take on their Riverdance parallels (which also get a workout on the live bonus tracks), if renditions of Downes' originals like "One World" and "Send Me a Song" and "Someday" from Disney's animated Hunchback of Notre Dame hew slavishly to the middle of the road -- which largely seems the album's easy-listening intention. --Jerry McCulley
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