Katherine First's Irish Kitchen Party

Dancing Tables & Dancing Chairs
Fiddle First Music 002
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In Ireland, one of the greatest honors a family can bestow upon a visitor is to invite that person into their kitchen. The kitchen is considered the room of greatest physical warmth and personal intimacy; it’s also the room that's cleared of furniture for a dance party for friends and neighbors. Leeds resident Katherine First brings the same homespun ambiance to her latest fiddle-driven CD, one that also features longtime musical collaborators Buddy Downey (lead vocals/guitar), Jeff Hinrichs (percussion), Chris Haynes (piano/accordion), and Allen Belkin (lead vocals/banjo).  Most of this album’s ten tracks feature songs and tunes that will be known to acoustic and Celtic music fans, but they appear in unusual mixes and conform to the spirit of keeping the mood festive. The tone is established in the opening set of four tunes in which the quintet leads with Liz Carroll’s “Dancing Tables” and closes with First’s own “Dancing Chairs.” There are similar clever shifts throughout, such as a cover of David Mallett’s “Ballad of St. Anne’s Reel” that evolves into “John Ryan’s Polka,” or the Breton tune “Kerflank” as prelude to Robert Burns’ “A Man’s a Man For A’ That.” Perhaps the most audacious shift is to open a track with the well-known reel “Growling Old Man and Woman” and finish with the Grateful Dead standard “Friend of the Devil.” This album evokes a cold winter night in a bar hoisting a few with close friends. There is a small session in the corner, the fiddler is on fire, and the other musicians jump in with gusto that makes everyone gather ‘round to tap their feet and sing along. Before the evening ends, even the furniture is jigging.  If you close your eyes it could be a Galway kitchen….

Rob Weir

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