Ride On by Ring of Kerry (2011. Ring of Kerry Music)

Wow. That’s the only word that I can use to describe the impact of this new effort from the boys (plus one girl) from the Cliffs of the Mississippi (the bandmates call the St. Cloud area of Minnesota home). Ring of Kerry has always been a personal favorite of mine because I consider their “utility player” Paul (aka The Stringman) Imholte to be a friend. This Celtic band’s prior releases (check out http://www.ringofkerry.us/ for details) were musically appealing, well-crafted efforts. But the addition of female vocalist-flutist Karie Oberg has lifted the band from the merely good and brought it into the realms of Celtic musical glory. Oberg’s polished, yet home-spun voice is just what the band needed to bring it to the next level of performance.

When I heard Oberg sing (with the band in complete unity behind her) the title track, “Ride On” at the Duluth Home and Builders Show earlier this year, I knew Ring of Kerry was on to something special. The texture of Oberg’s solo voice, mixed with the gruff vocals of the male band members, is spot on. Most times, hearing a tune live can’t be replicated in the recording studio: That’s not the case here. “Ride On” shines through as a stellar track on the disk, just as it did in concert.

The male members of Ring contribute ably to the totality of the work as well. Charlie Roth’s version of “Utley Mill Song” and “Holy Mother of God” (a hauntingly beautiful piece) also hit the mark as does Paul Blondell’s effort on “Ordinary Man”. And, as with the prior Ring of Kerry albums (to use an old term from my days of spinning vinyl), the instrumental pieces and the musicianship behind all the cuts on Ride On are top notch.

If you’re a fan of Celtic music, don’t miss this one. You won’t be able to put Karie Oberg’s rendition of the title track out of your mind. I hope Garrison Keillor is reading…

5 stars out of 5.


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