Irish music fans can count on OC's own Fenians to tear it up on St. Paddy's Day at the Anaheim House of Blues, but for those who prefer a more delicate, ethereal celebration of Ireland, tradition-steeped songbird Muireann Nic Amhlaoibh will import a bit of the Emerald Isle to San Juan Capistrano Saturday evening.
The lead singer and flute/whistle player for the Irish group Danu, Muireann Nic Amhlaoibh (pronounced MWI-ren Nick OWL-eve) grew up in the West Kerry County tradition of wild dance music, soulful slow airs and its vast canon of traditional folk songs. She learned to sing sean-nos (old-style) songs from local folk singers including Aine Ni Laoithe, Ellin Ni Chearna, and the Begley family. Over the years, her musical tastes broadened, varying from traditional Irish fare to American old-time and contemporary folk.
With last year's release of her solo debut, Daybreak: Fainne an Lae, Muireann offers a rich mix of traditional and contemporary Irish folk music anchored by her yearning, immaculate alto. And although warm airs and ballads, such as the intoxicating lullaby "Seoithin Seotho," set the wistful tone, the real gem is a cover of the Richard Thompson/Tim Finn pop-rock composition titled "Persuasion," which takes on an almost other-worldly dimension in Muireann's tender care.
It's also quite inspiring to see the 28-year-old Muireann so steeped in Celtic culture and history. For instance, she sounds perfectly at ease tackling such ancient material as the 18th century "Slan le Maigh" and album-closing "The Parting Glass"—the latter a well-known Scottish and Irish ballad with origins in the 17th century. It's surely enough to make her daddy, traditional Irish fiddler Feargal Mac Amhlaoibh, proud.
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Muireann Nic Amhlaoibh at the San Juan Capistrano Regional Library, 31495 El Camino Real, San Juan Capistrano, (949) 248-7469; www.musicatthelibrary.com. Sat., 6:30 & 8:30 p.m. $5-$10. All ages.