Chicago Tribune


March 4,16

"On the cold, wind-lashed coastlands of Prince Edward Island a family gathered close around the woodstove, fiddles and guitars in hand. As the snow piled high on wild winter nights inside hearts were warmed by rhythmical reels and soaring melodies. As the chill gave way to the intoxicating sweetness of summer, visitors from around the world gathered to hear the Sky Family perform their own particular blend of fast-paced Celtic music and Irish dance. Many friends were made and from there calls came to come to all parts of the US and Canada. The summer concert series grew into coast to coast tours across America. Now they regularly perform to packed venues, at home as much on the west coast as the east." - From The Sky Family biography.

Tom, Seth, Miriam, Joel and Gabe are the Sky Family, and along with Dan Brocke on the drums together they make up the Sky Family band. Tom, the dad, sings, plays lead guitar keyboards and second fiddle. Seth, the oldest son, plays the bass as well as takes care of the lights and sound at the shows. Sons Joel and Gabe hold the positions of first fiddle, saxophone, keyboards and rhythm guitar, keyboards respectively. Miriam, the daughter, sings and shares the keyboard chores with dad and the boys. Collectively the daughter and the younger boys also dance, and gosh do they know how to get jiggy! So The Sky Family is more than just a band; they're an Irish dance show to boot.

"Celtic Revival!" is a combination of Irish and Christian contemporary music with a tinge of pop, rock and even electronica thrown in for gloriously good measure. The fiddles are fiery, the guitars are electrified, the harmonies are heavenly, the synths are ethereal, the drums are pounding and the feet are fast. Evidence of the influence of other artists like The Corrs, Petra, The Cranberries, or The Rankin Family permeates their music throughout the album. Whether it's a souped-up Irish river dance instrumental, or a song of praise, The Skys know what they're doing and do it extremely well.

The seventeen song album opens with a little piece of praise titled "Let Everything That Has Breath". Synth pads, thundering drums, tight harmonies, soaring guitar rifts and, of course, fiddles, finely fiddled fiddles are on the musical menu for this one. It's followed by an instrumental, "Facing The Gale", an Irish step dancing ditty. In all, nine of the songs appear to fall into the contemporary Christian music category, six are non-vocal arrangements that world music fans will love, and the two pop-ish tunes, "Blossom" and "Who Is Like Him", could go either way. It's an interesting mix that should appeal to different audiences across the board.

The exceptionally notable instrumentals are "Life On The Hedge" and "The Cossack" that begins as a dirge then evolves into a lively Ukrainian Hopak style dance and ends a
klezmer infused celebration worthy of the great Yale Strom & Hot Pstromi. Standout vocal tracks on "Celtic Revival!" include "Who Is Like Him" and "Blossom", which feature Miriam's lilting mezzo-soprano voice. This young lady certainly gives singers like Dolores O'Roirdan (The Cranberries) a run for their melodic money when she's on the microphone. "Washed Clean" is an up tempo number where the family's voices unite in harmony, contrast in counterpoint and fence with a funky Hammond organ.

What I like best about The Sky Family and their "Celtic Revival!" is their sense of self awareness. On the secular side it's pretty much a perfect balance of traditional Irish music with more contemporary styles. On the spiritual side it exudes the unabashed joy of an old time tent revival where words and music come together to lift the soul. According to their website the Skys are currently on tour throughout the Unites States and Canada until the middle of summer ( No matter what you believe I believe their shows are an event you wouldn't want to miss because they appear to offer something to satisfy both body and soul. Can I get a Hallelujah here?

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