The Chieftains Featuring Ry Cooder, "San Patricio"

85 Billboard Rating

The latest collaboration between the Chieftains and Ry Cooder symbolizes more than the union of two of the most respected names in world music; there's also a powerful thematic concept at work here. An unlikely alliance formed by the fusion of the Chieftains' traditional Irish music with Cooder's wide-ranging Latin sounds, new album "San Patricio" relates the little-known story of a group of immigrant Irish soldiers who deserted the U.S. Army during the Mexican-American War and instead fought with the Mexicans. An all-star cast pitches in to help tell the tale: Singer Lila Downs opens the album with "La Iguana," on which uilleann pipes jostle for space with fluttering mariachi guitar, while actor Liam Neeson narrates "March to Battle (Across the Rio Grande)" against a backdrop provided in part by California's Los Cenzontles. Other guests include Linda Ronstadt ("A la Orilla de un Palmar"), Van Dyke Parks and Los Tigres del Norte (who both appear on "Canción Mixteca"). The result is as thrilling as it is enlightening.-Mikael Wood

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