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Runa | Current Affairs

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Folk: Celtic Folk Folk: Irish Contemporary Moods: Type: Acoustic
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Current Affairs

by Runa

Multi Award-Winning Celtic Roots music group - fourth studio release
Genre: Folk: Celtic Folk
Release Date: 

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  Song Share Time Download
1. The Banks Are Made of Marble
3:08 $0.79
2. The Wife of Usher's Well
4:46 $0.79
3. The Hunter Set
5:56 $0.79
4. Henry Lee
3:25 $0.79
5. Black River
3:53 $0.79
6. Aoidh, Na Dean Cadal Idir / A Chomaraigh Aoibhinn Ó
5:14 $0.79
7. The False Knight Upon the Road
4:38 $0.79
8. Ain't No Grave
4:35 $0.79
9. Who Will Sing Me Lullabies
3:20 $0.79
10. The Ruthless Wife
4:59 $0.79
11. Land of Sunshine Set
5:46 $0.79
12. Rarie's Hill
4:18 $0.79
13. The Last Trip Home
5:05 $0.79
Downloads are available as MP3-320 files.


Album Notes
Irish music and culture in America has always been a two-way street, moving music and musicians back and forth across the watery main. Philadelphia’s Irish-American roots band, RUNA, embodies this movement with their new album, Current Affairs, drawing equal inspiration from both the deep and ancient roots of the Celtic tradition and the modern reality of the Irish in America. On Current Affairs, RUNA, draw from their own family history, the stories of the Irish in America, old songs from the Old World, and Americana and bluegrass influences. With members hailing from three countries (USA, Canada, Ireland), it makes sense that they’d spread their nets as far as possible to pull in these very different influences, but what’s surprising is how well the album meshes together. That’s a testament to the vision of RUNA and to the ties that bind the Irish on both sides of the Atlantic.

Recording Current Affairs gave RUNA the chance to consciously push the tradition in new directions, bringing fresh ideas from American roots music into their signature sound. On the album, a working class American folk song learned from Pete Seeger (“The Banks Are Made of Marble”) rubs shoulders with a beautiful Gaelic ballad (“Aoidh Na Dèan Cadal Idir”) and a song from modern singer- songwriter Amos Lee, while an old British ballad (“The False Knight Upon the Road”) blends into an eerie American gospel classic (“Ain’t No Grave”). These different songs are laid atop a bed of lush Celtic instrumentation by RUNA’s powerhouse musicians, and it’s these same musicians who also represent each region of RUNA’s influences. Dublin- born guitarist/vocalist Fionán de Barra grew up speaking Irish Gaelic, immersed in the old traditions. His guitar work, inspired by various open tunings, propels the rhythm of RUNA’s songs. Galway mandolin/banjo player Dave Curley weaves in and out of the accompaniment playing deft, sparkling melodies and bolstering the rhythm with his powerful bodhran (Irish frame drum) playing. Montreal’s Cheryl Prashker’s percussion brings a refined force to the music. Nashville based, but Kentuckian by origin, young fiddle champion Maggie Estes White brings a knowledge of bluegrass and Texas fiddle traditions. Philadelphia-born bandleader Shannon Lambert-Ryan is an actor, singer, step-dancer, manager, and world music vocalist; quite the diverse resume! In RUNA, her cool, clear vocals move between the clarion Celtic song style and earthier American song styles with ease.

Joining RUNA on this album are some very special guests: three Grammy winners! Banjo player Ron Block (Alison Krauss & Union Station) is a wonderful surprise on the song “The Ruthless Wife,” a song inspired by the salacious events surrounding the death of Lambert-Ryan’s great-great grandfather. Harmonica player Buddy Greene (Billy Gaither) and accordionist Jeff Taylor (Elvis Costello) join RUNA fiddler Estes White on a virtuosic brace of tunes, “The Hunter Set.” With so many very different musicians, it would be a disservice to call RUNA’s music simply “Celtic.” Instead, this is music conceived in the New World, but with distinct ties to the Old World. Music that looks forward as much as it looks back. Music inspired by tradition, but unafraid of a bright new future.

-Devon Leger, "Hearth Music"



to write a review

Lee Whitaker-singer/songwriter

RUNA's Current Affairs
Current Affairs by RUNA is a fantastic Irish album that will put a smile on your face. The female vocals are splendid as well as the instrumentation and the songs themselves. Current Affairs offers a variety of different of music which I really like, plus Fionan's engineering captured a "live" sound on the guitars, mando and other acoustic instruments. The overall production is perfect!

Denise Foley

Irish Philadelphia: CD Review: “Current Affairs” by RUNA
When someone Irish-born describes something as “class,” they mean it’s brilliant, well done, magnificent and all of the other Thesauraus synonyms for “great.” I explain this so you know what I mean when I say that “Current Affairs,” the latest release from the Philadelphia-based Celtic band, RUNA, is class.

It’s the cap of an amazing year for this group, made up of vocalist Shannon Lambert-Ryan, her husband, Dublin-born guitarist Fionan de Barra, Canadian percussionist Cheryl Prashker, Galway native and multi-instrumentalist Dave Curley, and Kentucky-born fiddler, Maggie Estes White. In 2014, RUNA won top group and top traditional group in the Irish Music Awards and an Independent Music Award for Best Song in the World Traditional Category for “Amhrán Mhuighinse” from their last CD, “Somewhere Along the Road.”

They’re also booked at Celtic festivals from coast to coast and Canada, though with this CD, they could certainly diversify. Never afraid to color outside Celtic lines, RUNA could book folk and bluegrass festivals—maybe even the occasional jazz gathering–thanks to their artful blending of these seemingly contrasting musical influences on “Current Affairs.”

For an eclectic music lover like me, this is heaven. “Current Affairs” is like a warm, delicious stone soup, made with a little luscious bit of this and that from the group’s musical DNA. De Barra comes from a musical family and honed his skills busking in Dublin, later making his professional debut in “Riverdance,” the show that ushered in a renewed interest in Irish folk music. Lambert-Ryan learned to step dance at Philadelphia’s Irish Center, but is as at home with folk, classical, and musical theater as she is with Celtic music. Cheryl Prashker studied classical percussion at McGill University but she’s equally adept at everything from rock and roll to klezmer and jazz. Dave Curley is a traditionalist who also plays with the trad band, Slide Ireland. And RUNA’s latest killer fiddler—they appear to have a direct line to “killer fiddler” central—is Maggie Estes White, who brings her Kentucky bluegrass roots to the mix, which serves as a reminder that those roots also reach back to Celtic lands.

Also on “Current Affairs,” three Grammy award-winning guest artists: accordion player Jeff Taylor (Paul Simon, Elvis Costello) who has been a friend for years; Ron Block (Alison Krauss & Union Station), a multi-instrumentalist who plays alternative country, bluegrass, and writes gospel music; and Buddy Greene (Kentucky Thunder), who plays guitar, harmonica and, like Block, has his roots in gospel.

But you’ll also hear the spirit of Pete Seeger who died the night that RUNA recorded one of the songs he often sang, “The Banks Are Made of Marble,” by New York State apple farmer Les Rice who wrote the tune and lyrics in 1948, though it could serve as the theme song for the Occupy movement. There’s also a song, “Black River,” from Amos Lee, another Philadelphia musician, that has a touch of Negro spiritual about it, and one from English folk singer Kate Rusby, known as “the first lady of folkies” in the British Isles. Her lilting, lyrical song, “Who Will Sing Me Lullabies” seems to have been custom written for Lambert-Ryan’s classic folk soprano voice.

Lambert-Ryan and de Barra contribute an original song to the mix, “The Ruthless Wife,” loosely based on the story of Lambert-Ryan’s great-great grandfather, a Philadelphia cop who was killed in the line of duty just outside his beat near the Northern Liberties neighborhood. “We’ve taken liberties and poetic license with the story because there are too many details and it would go on forever,” said Lambert-Ryan when I spoke to her this week.

The basic story: Her great-great grandfather, James Allen Lambert, who was known as a ladies’ man, was separated from his wife and living with a young woman half his age named Rosie Gallagher. When Rosie found out he’d been killed, she was so distraught that she took poison, then thought better of it, and hired a cab to take her to Hahnemann Hospital where her lover’s body was taken. It was, alas, too late—for the both of them.

“When the city went to give me great-great grandmother his pension, she told them, ‘I don’t want that man’s pension,’” said Lambert-Ryan. “It’s a crazy story and we laughed about it for years. When Fionan and I decided to write a song for the CD, we were trying to come up with something and we looked at each other and said, ‘This is a really good story. We don’t have to look any further.’”

One of the things I’ve always loved about RUNA is their fearless reinterpretation of traditional tunes, like “The Hunter Set” on “Current Affairs,” which bursts with the step-lively influence of both Celtic and bluegrass, and “Henry Lee,” a traditional song in Ireland, Scotland, and Appalachia, which they’ve imbued with jazz and rock undertones.

It’s a fresh, exciting collection that sounds like nothing else you hear in the world of Celtic music. They’re real originals. They’re a a class act and this is a class CD.

Stephen Malarick

A new high point for RUNA
I've been following this band now for several years. From the first tune at the first gig I knew I was hearing something remarkable, unique, fresh and singular. Each of the four musicians that comprise RUNA are hugely talented in their role, but what's really outstanding is how they blend into a seamless, distinctive sound. A sound that will appeal to the fans of a traditional Celtic sound, as well as those looking for something that, while solidly rooted in tradition, moves beyond in exciting new directions. Current Affairs is simply their finest effort to date. Shannon Lambert-Ryan is one of the truly great voices, expressive and warm. All the instrumentals and backing play to the music, and from the heart. I'll give a special shout out to three cuts. First, Ain't No Grave's droning fiddle introduction places this halfway between the Celtic countries and the Southern Highlands, and skillfully so. A great cut. Shannon Lambert-Ryan's version of Kate Rusby's Who Will Sing Me Lullabies is the definitive version, in my book. Lastly, the cut I replay and replay without tiring is Amos Lee's Black River. Hear, multi-instrumentalist Dave Curley pulls a surprise and sings and plays this so soulfully. Memorable, but then again, the entire CD is captivating. We'll be hearing more about this band, I promise you that.