Contemporary Tradition: Anna Livia

The strands which connect the music of England, Ireland, Scotland, Canada and the United States reach back across the centuries, and they are still being created and honored at the beginning of the twenty first century. That sort of connection and exploration is what’s going on the work of Boston based band Anna Livia, and what’s showcased in their album Barrier Falls.

The dozen tracks which comprise the album include Lovely Annie, a song of unrequited love which has its origins in the north of Ireland, John Riley, a story of lovers reuniting after long absence which has been passed along through the folk songs history of many English speaking countries in varied ways. There is a set of tunes from Scotland and from Cape Breton in Nova Scotia, which comprises music from those traditions as well as more recently composed pieces. It is called after one of those Nova Scotia tunes, Brenda Stubbert’s Wake Up to Cape Breton. That’s a set that will get your foot tapping, including as it it does march, strathspey, and reel. The Meeting is Over, which closes the disc and in a way draws its strands of music together, was learned from the music of a community of traditional singers in North Carolina.

Members of Anna Livia are taking things forward with original tunes and songs which stand well beside their choices from traditional sources. Among the newer works are Barrier Falls, the title tune of the collection, a jig written by Flynn Cohen, who plays guitar in the band. It leads off a set of original jigs with other tunes in the set composed by Emerald Rae and Brendan Carey Block, who each add their fiddle playing to Anna Livia’s sound. Stuart Kenney, who keeps the low notes going on bass and adds tenor notes on banjo, composed two tunes, Freak Funky Thang and Hill and Hollow, and Liz Simmons, the singer with the group, wrote The Time Is Up.

These are five musicians well qualified to interpret tradition and take it forward. As you might gather from the titles of their music, they bring quite a variety of backgrounds of living. learning, touring, and studying through Celtic and Americana cultures, as well as immersion in the ever changing Celtic and Americana music scenes in New England. Joining the band for this project ae cutting edge button accordion player John Whelan and creative percussionist Paddy League.

Should you be planning or dreaming of a trip to Appalachia, Cape Breton, or even Boston, Barrier Falls. will make a good soundtrack.

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