Beyond The Pale
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Beyond The Pale

Dallas, Texas, United States | INDIE

Dallas, Texas, United States | INDIE
Band Americana Celtic

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"Strange Turns Review on Amazon"

Beyond the Pale in general and Strange Turns in particular are the embodiment of the "living" nature of folk music or, at least, what it should be. As the CD's title implies, the group's music covers a wide variety of tunes and styles, but never veers off the folk road. The tracks glide with an alacrity born of consummate musicians from the country/folk standard "Jolene" to powerful a capella paeans to working class dignity, "Old and Strong" and "Honest Work" (both outstanding in their starkness) to wonderfully lively instrumentals such as the set of traditional Breton dances collectively named "The Hoochie Dance" by Christy McLeod and "Traveling North America" (a sort of Whitman's Sampler of American folk styles across the continent).

The CD title actually derives from a line in Gordon McLeod's original song, "The Red-Haired Boys". Ironically, when Beyond the Pale taps into the ancient Celtic mythic/folkloric vein, it is most evident when the group is doing Gordon McLeod's original songs. Besides the aforementioned "Red-Haired Boys" (which is paired with the traditional "Garrett Barry's Jig"), the CD also includes Gordon's "The Fate of the Children of Lir", with haunting lyrics beautifully sung by his wife, Christy. And don't let the title of bandmember/piper Richard Kean's instrumental throw you; "Sputnik's Lullaby" is a reference to his cat.

Luckily for me, the CD also includes one of my personal favorites at Beyond the Pale concerts, "With Her Head Tucked Underneath Her Arm", a 1930s-era lighthearted poke at King Henry VIII's ill-fated Anne Boleyn. This song never fails to inspire pleny of audience participation. However, if you're unfortunate enough never to have seen/heard Beyond the Pale live, do yourself a favor. Owning and hearing the CD Strange Turns is the next best thing. It's an absolute treat.

By Frank Grainger
- Amazon.com


"Review of "The Music Plays Me""

The Music Plays Me
CD Review written by Jed Marum


THE MUSIC PLAYS ME is the newest album released by Beyond The Pale (BTP). The CD has 12 tracks for a total run time of 44 minutes, 35 seconds. It was produced and engineered by band member, Gordon McCleod at Mockingbird Studio in Tyler, Texas. In addition to Gordon, BTP band members include Christy McLeod, Betsy Cummings and John Delaney. Dirje Smith appears on several tracks as a guest performer.

Playing melody throughout the album, you will hear mostly Irish Traditional instrumentation; whistle, flute, fiddle, hammered dulcimer, accordion and concertina. You will also hear traditional style rhythm instruments; guitar, octave mandolin (not infrequently used in lieu of bouzouki in Celtic trad music), and bodhran – but there are some pleasant surprises as well along the way, including saxophone, harmonica and cello.

THE MUSIC PLAYS ME has a good mix, a well balanced selection of songs and tunes that deliver bounce and humor – dance and melody. Its variety of instruments, interesting song and tune selection, and its variety of musical styles give the CD depth. THE MUSIC PLAYS ME is rich in texture.

The track list starts well with a couple of fine tunes composed by Gordon, arranged and played ceili style with Irish flute, whistle, bodhran, fiddle and guitar. The tunes set the tone for the musical styles and textures you will hear throughout the album. Track two stands out as the album’s finest. Betsy sings a trad sounding Tim O’Brien song called High Road while the group provides a grand, “sweep you off your feet” melodic dance between each verse. Betsy delivers the song with the warm intimacy of a friend telling you a sunshine story, her vocal touched nicely with a tasteful harmony by Christy. The powerful, dancing fiddle/accordion lines in between verses trade licks throughout. It’s a track you wish would never end. It really captures this group’s strengths all at once; skillful musicianship, strong singing, excellent song selection and an obvious love for the joy of music. I challenge you to listen to this song without at least part of you getting up and dancing!

At its roots, THE MUSIC PLAYS ME fits the Irish Trad genre, but the album explores new sounds, new scales and rhythms, as well. One of those new explorations is a track that combines two modern European tunes, Sideways Glance and Gaestebud. Played primarily on trad instrumentation, the group adds saxophone and a touch of electric bass. This track has a strong Celtic Gypsy feel. The tunes evolve and combine nicely to make a noteworthy piece.

Another nice variant from the trad genre is a superb song written by Keith Grimwood and Ezra Idlet (a.k.a. TROUT FISHING IN AMERICA). The song, Who Are These People is a thoughtful look at the ‘drive by media,’ sound bite world where we sometimes live -- a world where the TV/Hollywood image of life never quite fits with who we really are. It is a strong song sung well and convincingly by John Delaney. The arrangement feels uncomplicated and elegant. It builds on the song’s simple melody and verse, adding layers of strings, harmonic vocals and percussion. John’s saxophone lines flesh out the arrangement with a sort of “icing on the cake” touch.

In addition to the first track’s original tunes, the album’s track list includes two strong original songs, one each by Gordon and Christy McLeod. Gordon’s Sligo – paints a romantic series of images seamlessly mixed with a driving traditional reel in Celtic almost Bluegrass flavor. Christy’s original, The Music Plays Me ties the album’s themes together against a mix of instrumental and vocal harmonies - reflecting the joys of music and its connection with the human spirit. Both songs are celebrations of life, and love for the music we make along the way.

There are more highlights. Another nice “aside of the genre” track is one titled Old Silver. It is a great Americana/roots style song, nicely sung, with harmonies. It is simply and well accompanied in Celtic flavor. The Abbeyfeale Polkas are “session” style tunes. The set is traditional sounding but with the surprise addition of saxophone on the melody. It is a great addition to the album. A set of traditional tunes end the album with a joyous dance - ending almost the way it began; celebrating life and reminding each listener that “the music plays me.”
- The Ceili Magazine


"Review of Strange Turns"

Review of Strange Turns by Sarah McQuaid in Hot Press, April, 2003

This five piece band hail from Texas and play an eclectic blend of Irish, Scottish, Breton, American, Canadian and original tunes, plus contemporary songs by everyone form Holly Near to Todd Rundgren. The first track on the CD sets the pace, with the Irish session classic ‘Julia Delaney’ segueing into an alt-countryish rendition of Dolly Parton’s ‘Jolene’, which in turn is followed seamlessly by the old Bill Monroe bluegrass number’Jerusalem Ridge’. Two strong female singers, Christy McLeod and Bestsy Cummings, handle most of the lead vocal duties, but happily the splendidly gravel-voiced Gordon McLedo is on hand to relieve any excess sugar. Highland piper Richard Kean adds a fine Caledonian element to the mix.—Sarah McQuaid
- Hot Press Magazine ( Ireland)


"Queen of Skye Review"

Queen of Skye—Review by Dirty Linen, Nov/Dec 2004

Beyond The Pale: Queen of Skye

Texas based Celtic quartet Beyond The Pale remains firmly anchored in Celtic music, but applies that style to a variety of songs outside the expected repertoire on its most recent recording. The opening medley of reels gives way to Christy McLeod’s haunting lead vocals on an Elton John/Bernie Taupin song “Where to Now Saint Peter?” which in the band’s interpretation seems to fit with the Celtic canon of songs about death and what comes after.

Taking a livelier turn, and in another twist, there’s Spade Cooley’s swing piece ”You Can’t Break My Heart”, with lead by Betsy Cummings. Folk tales and more traditional reels continue the trip, along with songs by Janis Ian and David Olney. Speaking of trip, there’s the science fiction (sort of) story of emigration that is the title tune, which includes spaceships among the modes of transport.

Gordon McLeod’s original “Hester” with his thoughtful lead vocal, provides a reflective and clearly imagined consideration of what the life of one of those Irish ancestors might have been to close the journey.

A good amount of variety, to be sure, well played and sung and all tinged with a hint of Celtic arrangement. (KD)
- Dirty Linen Magazine


"Review of Strange Turns"

Review of
Strange Turns by Beyond The Pale

Wrapping things up for this month is Beyond The Pale, a quintet form Texas that incorporates a little bit of everything on Strange Turns (self-produced BTP 3059 ( 2002)).
The primary orientation is Irish-Scottish, but this is a band that likes to blend genres and does it well. There are a couple of highly effective bagpipe-led medleys, including a mesmerizing Breton tune set dubbed “The Hoochie Dance”, a surprising Celtified cover of Dolly Parton’s country hit “Jolene” that’s sandwiched between and Irish reel and a Bill Monroe tune, and a fiddle/squeezebox/hammered dulcimer track called “Traveling North America Set” that begins with a Quebec reel, jumps into an Appalachian clog dance, and ends up with a Tex-Mex polka. Other songs range from an Irish transport ballad to a music-hall ditty to a gospel-flavored a capella chorus.
- Dirty Linen Magazine


Discography

Paleontology 2010
The Music Plays Me 2006
Further Beyond 2005
Queen of Skye 2004
Strange Turns 2002
Angel on The Seventh Stair 1999
Life Is All Chequered 1997
Mickey's Warning 1996

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Bio

True to their name, Beyond The Pale delivers a wild musical ride outside the boundaries of convention. Delighting audiences for over twelve years, the band is grounded in the traditional roots music of America,Northern Europe and Ireland with imaginative ventures across musical borders. Where else can you experience fiery reels, haunting ballads, outrageously humorous songs and music from around the world including Mexican polkas and Texas swing?
Expect the unexpected as fiddle, flute, hammered dulcimer, accordion, guitar, saxophone whistles concertina, mandolin and percussion hold you in a melodic spell and whisk you around the dance floor. And, the entire band sings, from well-crafted original songs to "celticized" versions of contemporary songs ranging from 1930s music hall songs to stunning a capella pieces to Grand Ole Opry favorites and classics form the British Pop invasion. Are we having fun yet?--You bet!

Beyond The Pales' eclectic and diverse mix of traditional celtic and contemporary styles and is the key to their popularity. They have developed their unique sound by blending their own original songs and compositions with an array of traditional dance tunes and folk songs of Ireland, America Scotland and Europe using a wide range of instruments including fiddle, flute, accordion, guitar, hammered dulcimer, tin whistle, saxophone, harmonica, concertina, mandolin, clarinet, bodhran, percussion and of course the voices of band members.
Beyond The Pale have been featured performers at some of the largest music festivals in the USA including in The North Texas Irish Festival ( Dallas) and The Texas Scottish Festival and Highland Games (Arlington). They have shared billing at these events with the top Celtic groups in the world including Altan, Tim O’Brien, Eileen Ivers, Solas, Danu, Lunasa, Dervish, Silabh Notes, Teada, to name just a few. In addition to these large events, BTP give frequent concert and festival performances throughout Texas and the South Central US and occasionally as far afield as Ireland and France. They have appeared live on National Public Radio’s “The Glenn Mitchell Show” and “ No Cover” and on RTE, Ireland “ Live From Miltown”. Beyond The Pale’s members have performed throughout the USA and in Europe.
Beyond the Pale’s popular recordings include their new CD, The Music Plays Me as well as Queen of Skye, (2004) Strange Turns (2002) Angel On The 7th Stair (1999) and Life Is All Chequered (1997). It has been said that their latest CD The Music Plays Me is like Tim O'Brien meeting The Chieftains. Beyond The Pale’s recordings feature a diverse blend of traditional, original and contemporary songs and folk dance tunes from the Irish and Scottish to American and Canadian and Europe ranging from fiery Irish reels to plaintive Scottish folk songs and even include a Mexican Polka, and covers of songs by Elton John, Janis Ian, Laurie Lewis, The Red Clay Ramblers, Todd Rundgren, Dolly Parton and Hank Williams. Their original songs are humorous, stirring, haunting, and always true to the band’s heritage.
Gordon McLeod plays fiddle, guitar, bodhran, mandolin, bass, sings lead and backing vocals and composes original tunes and songs. Gordon has been performing and composing music all of his life as a solo artist, a member of several bands and as a recording session artist. He has performed over much of the United States as well as in Ireland and France. BTPs latest CD The Music Plays Me, feature Gordon's original songs as do their earlier releases , “Queen of Skye”, “Strange Turns” and “Angel on the 7th Stair.” He also works as a producer, specializing in acoustic, roots oriented music. His original songs, including the award-winning “Hester”, have been featured on several releases aside from Beyond The Pale’s recordings including Pinnacles Record Company’s new release, “Celtic Energy”.
Betsy Cummings plays piano accordion and bodhran and sings a wonderful array of traditional and contemporary songs. Betsy has been performing Celtic music for many years and is also and currently President of the Southwest Celtic Music Association. Formerly with the renowned group Lost Tribe, Betsy's wonderful voice combined with her sensitive feeling for the music and skillful fingers on the accordion keys, along with her knack for picking the most captivating songs add a rich dimension to Beyond The Pale's sound.
Christy McLeod's natural soulfulness shows not only in her beautiful singing and guitar playing but in her wit and instant rapport with her audiences as well. Christy began performing in her early teens. She plays guitar, harmonica, bodhran and percussion and sings lead and backing vocals. Christy has performed over much of the United States and in Ireland and France as well. She is also a gifted and witty songwriter. For example, her composition "The Music Plays Me" is the title track of Beyond The Pale's latest CD " The Music Plays Me".
John Delaney brings a wealth of talent to