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Fantastic Fiddles: Dropping our jaws with the Celtic Fiddle Festival 

The more strings attached the better when you're talking about Celtic Fiddle Festival.Holy crap, it's March. That means that yet again, it's almost St. Patrick's Day. And that also means that it's quite apt to talk about Irish-influenced music. But before all you snot-nosed Flogging Molly and Dropkick Murphy punks get your suspenders in a twist of anticipation, let's make clear that the following is entirely about traditional Celtic folk music, which can still be cool.

And it's especially cool if the folk music is provided by the Celtic Fiddle Festival - which to the less fiddle-familiar individuals out there is not actually a festival, it's a band comprised of some of the world's finest four-string bowers. The group isn't entirely Irish, as one might expect, but actually features a player from Quebec as well as one from a Celtic region of France. To add to the geographical and nomenclature-related confusion we've likely created thus far, Kevin Burke, the fiddle pioneer known as one of the best living players still touring, actually lives in Portland. So, in short, Celtic Fiddle Festival plays Irish-inspired music, without really residing in or near Ireland.

The music itself is based on the Celtic sounds many Americans don't get a healthy dose of on a routine basis, yet many enjoy when they can get a listen. The sound, however, isn't limited by these Celtic roots, but rather jumps between styles, touching on Cajun-influenced tunes, as well as cuts from Italy, Sweden and other places that might not bring the sound of a fiddle to mind when mentioned.

What ties the tracks on the band's recently-released disc Equinoxe together is the absolute mastery of the instrument that Burke, along with André Brunet and Christian Lemaitre display on the record. Whether you're a fiddle fanatic or largely foreign to such folk workings you're likely to find these fiddlers, as well as guitarist Ged Foley, downright impressive. Each player seems to bring his own take on the classical instrument and the congress of these fiddlers creates sounds that are sometimes symphonic yet at other moments come across like an old country pub jam.

Some musical groups might make you want to dance, others might make you want to relax, and then there's some acts that, regardless of the style they're playing, are so damn good you don't do anything but stand (or sit) there and concentrate on keeping your jaw from falling too far open in amazement. Celtic Fiddle Festival definitely falls into the last category and is worth seeing for the sole purpose of having your mind blown by this talent - even if you wouldn't typically consider yourself a fan of Celtic music, or maybe if you're only a fan for a day or two in mid-March.


Celtic Fiddle Festival

7pm Tuesday, March 11. Tower Theatre, 835 NW Wall St., 317-0700. $25, $30/reserved. Visit or the Tower box office for tickets.

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