The Chieftains Collaborate with Bon Iver, the Decemberists + Others on ‘Voice of Ages’
Generally speaking, traditional music from any part of the world doesn't stand much of a chance on the American charts. But over the course of their 50 years as a band, the Chieftains have consistently proven themselves an exception to the rule, piling up sold-out tours, multiple Grammy wins, and even the occasional pop hit along the way. Their latest release, 'Voice of Ages,' looks to continue the band's winning streak -- and it includes collaborations with a number of younger high-profile artists in the bargain.
Founding Chieftain Paddy Moloney spoke about the new album during a recent interview with Paste, laying responsibility for the record's eyebrow-raising assortment of guest artists firmly at the feet of his co-producer, the Grammy-hoarding T Bone Burnett.
"I was not aware of these groups or this whole part of the musical world beforehand," Moloney admitted. "They were all T-Bone’s ideas. He’d send me names and I’d start to listen to them and try to think of something that would blend with their style. The more I listened, the more I warmed up to the whole thing."
The album's guest roster includes Bon Iver, the Decemberists, Carolina Chocolate Drops, the Low Anthem, and the Punch Brothers -- none of whom are exactly known for their overwhelming Irishness, but all in possession of qualities that enabled Moloney to weave them into the Chieftains' traditional focus.
"Bon Iver wanted to do ‘Down in the Willow Garden,’ which has the same tune as ‘The Men of the West,’ a 300-year-old Irish ballad, so that made sense," recalled Moloney. "When I first heard the Decemberists, I loved [frontman] Colin [Melloy]'s voice, and I recognized them as great musicians. They reminded me of Dire Straits; they were a rock band, but you could tell they started with folk music before moving on. When they sent me a list of all the instruments they all played, I went to town on the arrangement; they were very happy with the riff I put into the middle of it."
'Voice of Ages' fits in with a long Chieftains tradition of incorporating guest artists into their records, including 1987's 'Irish Heartbeat,' which found them collaborating with Van Morrison, and a pair of Nashville-themed releases, 'Down the Old Plank Road' and 'Further Down the Old Plank Road.' They've also broadened the scope of traditional Irish music by visiting other parts of the world to record albums such as 'The Chieftains in China.'
Listen to the Chieftans' 'Voice of Ages':