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Playing Around: Tarras 

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There is so much Celtic music floating around lately, and so much of it is so mediocre that when word got around that Scottish band Tarras was playing at Jack Quinn's, nary an eyebrow was raised. But then a CD, Rising, arrived in the mail, and after a few songs, ears around the office perked up. Quickly.

To lump Tarras in with hard-reeling Celtic quasi-rock bands and quavering highlands banshee balladeers is not only unfair, it is ignorant. This young quintet has succeeded in preserving the traditional beauty of the genre, ditching all traces of pretension.

Classically trained violinist Emma Hancock, 17, weaves intricate melodies into modern compositions so skillfully that they become interlocked; and a hearty hand must be given to percussionist/guitarist Jon Redfern, whose rhythms draw the band's Celtic roots out from the ancient, suffocating black Scottish soil and into the light of day.

It is wrong, however, to single out individual members of Tarras. Each member plays a key role throughout Rising, whether sharing the beautiful, natural vocals, or performing the simple and clean guitar work as the band steps from Gomez-esque blues to gentle, modern folk to something akin to American acoustic roots rock.

The difference between Tarras and other emerging Celtic bands is their willingness to simply, eloquently let go of their traditional roots. Tarras recognizes that Celtic music is already a part of who they are, but they don't force-feed centuries of mist and legend down your throats.

Celtic tradition, distilled by exposure to the modern world, flows through Rob Armstrong, Joss Clapp, Ben Murray, Hancock and Redfern and into their instruments. The result of this open-minded, youthful approach is an entirely original sound. Don't miss this chance to hear it in person.

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