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Rhythm & Views

Beoga

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From the first song on The Incident, you know this is no typical Celtic-music album: "Lamped" kicks off with a vaguely African beat--slightly altered through some Radiohead-esque distortion--along with piano chords and what sound like electric guitars, before it eases into its rambunctious fiddle-and-accordion melody. Strings, piano and jazzy sax then converge in a chamber-music-style bridge.

Finally, there's the siren wailing near the end of the tune, which sets a tone of urgency for the rest of the third album by this five-piece from County Antrim, Ireland. It's appropriate that the group, juggling styles and a raft of guest musicians on this CD, would choose a name that means "lively" in Gaelic.

Beoga doesn't neglect traditionalism and makes sure to touch all the requisite bases--jigs, reels, waltzes--but the band, fronted by fiddler and vocalist Niamh Dunne, clearly is looking to challenge conventions and blaze a trail or two. These folks aren't shy about blending elements of tango, blues, polka, gospel, pop and New Orleans second-line music.

The creative energy remains high even when Beoga performs quiet numbers, such as the beautiful, mournful "Mary Danced With Soldiers." Dunne's gorgeous vocals are a joy on this piece, as well as on a ragtime take on Sister Rosetta Tharpe's "Strange Things" and a stark interpretation of Clifford T. Ward's "The Best Is Yet to Come."

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