Sound Check: Celtic music, indie rock and smooth R&B on stages this week

By Malcolm X Abram
Beacon Journal pop music writer

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West Michigan based quartet An Dro (from left) Carolyn Koebel, Michele Venegas, James Spalink and Fred Wilson will perform their unique brand of Celtic based, globally infused, world beat music" at All Souls Unitarian Church on Friday evening.

St. Patrick’s Day has already passed, but fans of Celtic music that is “globally infused” with “world-beat music” may want to throw on their clogs and head down to the All Souls Unitarian Church in Bellville on Friday evening for a concert by Michigan group An Dro.

The quartet of fiddler Michele Venegas, bouzouki/hurdy-gurdy player and primary songwriter James Spalink, guitarist/mandolinist Fred Wilson and percussionist Carolyn Koebel play plenty of traditional instrumental Celtic music, and their original songs can be heard on the band’s third album Storyteller, released last year.

Though An Dro is named for a traditional Breton line dance, the band also incorporates folk-music styles from around the world including bits of medieval French songs, melodies from Scandinavia and Appalachia, and Arabic and African grooves and rhythms. It may appear to be an odd mishmash of instrumentation and cultures, but they strive for a timeless sound, and they make it work.

That’s evidenced by the album’s medley Hurdy Gurdy Girls/Andro/French Dance/Avant De S’en Aller, which sounds like a gypsy caravan jamming around the fire with an African drummer and a Franco-Appalachian fiddler. But there are also more traditional folk tunes such as the lovely, lilting, harmonies-laden, acoustic guitar and mandolin-driven ballad Pearl.

Storyteller garnered An Dro a best traditional album award from the WYCE’s Jammie Awards, which celebrates local and regional folk, rock, and world beat in Grand Rapids, and the band makes the rounds of many folk festival throughout the Northeast and Midwest.

The concert is being produced by Highlands of Ohio Folk and Celtic Music Society, a not-for-profit group run by a couple of true believers and folk lovers, Fate Christian and Melanie Seaman, who have been bringing Celtic and folk acts to the area since 1999.

Rocking in Canton

On Saturday night, the Auricle in Canton will play host to the Dear Hunter, a veteran Boston indie-rock band (not the Atlanta rock outfit Deerhunter).

The band is primarily guitarist/multi-instrumentalist Casey Crescenzo, along with his drummer brother Nick and whoever they take out on tour. It’s a high-concept, prog-rocking outfit that began as a side project for songs Crescenzo didn’t feel were appropriate for his then-primary band, emo-rockers the Receiving End of Sirens.

Crescenzo left the Sirens and in 2006 released Act I: The Lake South, The River North, the first of a planned six-act concept record cycle, featuring a protagonist called the dear hunter or “the boy,” the son of a prostitute. The story so far follows the boy from infancy through adulthood, including stints as a soldier in war and a bit of patricide. It continues on Act II: The Meaning of, and All Things Regarding Ms. Leading (2007) and Act III: Life and Death (2009).

If a six-album concept cycle wasn’t ambitious enough, Crescenzo and company have also released a series of four-song EPs collected as The Color Spectrum, based on (as you can likely surmise) the colors of the spectrum.

But the band will be coming to town behind their latest album, Migrant, released on Tuesday. The album breaks from the Acts I-VI cycle and features no overriding concept, just a collection of catchy songs, making it a good listen.

Crescenzo has a powerful, emotional, soaring voice and though the new album has fewer of the prog-rock rhythms and riffs of earlier albums, it features some tasteful string arrangements (the hazy Sweet Naiveté), lady background singers (the light funk-rockin’ Girl) and syncopated rhythms (Cycles).

The Dear Hunter’s touring partners are Southern California’s Naive Thieves, a band whose recent release sounds like the Strokes and Vampire Weekend got drunk together in a studio, turned the reverb button way up, and made a pretty good record.

Oleta Adams at Tangier

Fans of smooth, jazz-infused adult contemporary R&B should consider going to Akron’s Tangier to check out singer-songwriter Oleta Adams, who will perform two shows in the venue’s cozy, awesomely retro-decorated cabaret on Sunday night.

Adams gained prominence after Tears for Fears’ Roland Orzabal and Curt Smith discovered her singing in a Kansas City hotel; they were so impressed that they featured Adams on their 1989 album Sowing the Seeds of Love, including the single Woman in Chains, a duet between Orzabal and Adams.

Her 1990 debut album, Circle of One, contained her biggest hit, the Quiet Storm radio format staple Get Here, which reached the Billboard 100 Top 5 and became an anthem for families waiting for soldiers to return safely during the Gulf War.

Adams never reached those commercial heights again, and she has released only five albums in the past two decades, the most recent being Let’s Stay Here from 2009. It’s a solid collection of low-key soulful originals and a couple of covers, and finds Adams’ honeyed alto still in fine form.

In addition to the show, Tangier will have its “Jazz Buffet” available.

Malcolm X Abram can be reached at or 330-996-3758. Read his blog, Sound Check Online, at, or follow him on Twitter @malcolmxabram.

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