Eileen Ivers returned to the Barns at Wolf Trap for a rollicking good show filled with her unique brand of Celtic fiddle and traditional roots music like bluegrass, Cajun, French Canadian, and American Country.
This is one artists you want to see live; a speaker can’t do justice to her mastery of this instrument and her improv skills. Ivers shot to fame in the 90’s playing the licks for Riverdance on her blue violin and by now is known as one of the best fiddle players in the world.
She did play a medly from the show and ended most sets with, as she said, “a few reels,” but mostly she played numbers off her new album, Beyond the Bog Road, where Ireland is just one of a range of influences. She opened with “Coming Home” which she wrote herself in the French Canadian style and then played the moving “Mackerel Sky.” She closed the concert with another original “Paddy In Zululand,” which she wrote in collaboration with South African musicians. The combination of African rhythms and Irish melodies is compelling.
She could play jigs and reels and make a very good living for the rest of her career doing what she does better than anyone else, but she said, “It’s fun to see what this instrument can do.” She plays an electric violin that has a bluesy sound to it and she has technology that can record licks and play them back in real time. She played “Pachabel Frolics” by accompanying herself five times over.
For most songs though, a host of award-winning musicians accompanied her, whom she featured often and seemed to delight in riffing with, often stretching a simple melody into a 15-minute jam. Buddy Connolly played button accordion and piano. Greg Anderson played acoustic guitar. Lindsey Horner played upright and electric bass and the occasional harmonica lick. Dave Markow played drums and sang. And Deirdre Brennan played tenor banjo and sang lead vocals on many songs like “Paddy on the Railroad.” The audience even got to sing along on the Scottish tune, “This Love Will Carry Me.”
For one set, she crossed the pond and explored American bluegrass – first playing a traditional hornpipe and then the bluegrass classic “Smith’s Delight” which is what that hornpipe became here. That set ended with another classic, “I’ve Endured,” sung by Brennan.
When she played her fiddle alone though, those were my favorite moments. She soloed on “Lament for O’Donnel,” a lyrical, heart breaking piece. She can just wring emotion out of those strings. And in a complete contrast, she played a series of blazingly fast polkas.
You could feel the Barns shaking and hear the feet tapping through her show as people stood and clapped and stomped along to the inspirational music and rare talent that is Eileen Ivers and her fiddle. It was a jaw-dropping evening of pure fun.
Running Time: Two hours and 15 minutes, with one 15-minute intermission.