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Savannah Music Festival: Lúnasa: Celtic Crossover

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Lúnasa has found success over the last 20 years by pushing the boundaries of Irish acoustic music. Flutist and composer Kevin Crawford explains that, "with traditional Irish music, the melody was meant for dancing. It wasn’t meant to be explored."

And Lúnasa has been all about exploring, both musically, with 8 studio albums, and geographically, from Sydney Opera House to the White House. This weekend, the world travelers will be making their third appearance at the Savannah Music Festival.

The band features Seán Smyth on fiddle, Kevin Crawford on flute and whistle, Trevor Hutchinson on bass, Ed Boyd on guitar, and Cillian Vallely on uilleann pipes and low whistles. The band has evolved over the years, swapping out two members, and now it is Smyth, Crawford, and Vallely who compose the melodies.

“Part of why we’re still going after 20 years is that we’re honest with each other,” Crawford notes.

Lúnasa will be joined by American country and bluegrass singer-strummer Tim O’Brien, who has been a comfortable addition to Lúnasa’s live shows over the past few years. While the native Appalachian is a natural entertainer and lead vocalist, he also contributes to the acoustic songs with mandolin, banjo and guitar.

O’Brien is also featured on Lúnasa’s latest album Cas. The addition of recorded vocals marks a major shift for a band that has spent their career proving that flute, pipe and fiddle melodies can stand on their own.

It might seem risky tampering with the formula that led the Associated Press to call them “the hottest Irish acoustic group on the planet,” which is why, as Crawford explains, “it needed to be a continuation of our previous work.”

Fortunately, after performing with many famous vocalists over the years, the band was able to integrate the new instrument organically.

“It was like calling up an old friend, which made a massive difference,” Crawford says.

In fact, Lúnasa called up several Grammy award-winning old friends. Natalie Merchant, Mary Chapin Carpenter, Eric Bibb & Daoiri Farrell each contributed vocals for a unique collection of Americana, Gospel, English folk, and traditional Irish songs. The album is truly a global effort, recorded in Woodstock, Nashville, and Dublin.

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