Beyond The Pale - Celtic-Americana-Roots

Reviews and Press

Below are some reviews we have recieved in the past few years

Below are some reviews of our recordings and performances. See the Merchandise Page to find out how you can get your copies of Beyond The Pale’s CDs. Check out the Audio Page to view contents and hear Real Audio examples.

Beyond The Pale absolutely carries you away—a true gem”—The Ceili magazine

 “Splendid!--fresh—out of the ordinary—especially strong instrumentals—pleasurable and satisfying—an enjoyable recording with a warm organic sound and an affable and relaxed way with songs and tunes”—Rambles.net review of  “The Music Plays Me”

“—Superb vocals---fine singers”—Hot Press Magazine ( Ireland) review of Queen of Skye  May 2005

The sheer fun, imagination, innovation, musical diversity and talent these guys exhibit on this disk and on stage puts them in a class of their own.”—The Ceili review of Queen of Skye

“I love it. You have a great song selection, a rich mix of textures ... sounds great !”—Jed Marum, singer/songwriter writing about  “The Music Plays Me

Well played and sung—outside the expected—haunting—thoughtful, reflective and clearly imagined.”—Dirty Linen review of Queen of Skye.

“Wonderful! Fantastic!—I just can’t stop listening to it!”—Catherine Sherer comments on Strange Turns

Mesmerizing—“—Dirty Linen review of Strange Turns

Strong singers—eclectic tunes”—Sarah McQuaid in Hot Press review of Strange Turns

 

Review of “Paleontology” in The Ceili magazine

Beyond The Pale consists of four very talented musicians who play a dizzying array of instruments: Gordon McLeod, Christy McLeod, Betsy Cummings, and John Delaney. They "wow" you with their ability as musicians. When I listen to this CD there are all sorts of influences. For example,  Conjugal Visit  is a "witty" song with a "Cajun" feel, and it is almost Zydeco without the washboard! Track five is titled La Valsonette/Homage Edmond Pariseau which are two tunes from Brittany, France and French Acadia in Canada.

The first track is the classic Beatles tune I've Just Seen A Face! And track six is a David Gilmour (that's right -- Pink Floyd!) song titled On The Turning Away. A sweet arrangement with strings, accordion, and flute showcases Christy's vocals reminiscent of Wild Mountain Thyme. And when I heard track ten, Saving Limbo, I said to myself "that sounds like Klezmer!" It is a self-described "slightly tongue-in-cheek song" composed by Betsy Cummings after John Delaney expressed his regret at the demise of Limbo in the Catholic doctrine! Gordon and John add clarinet and saxophone to give it a "distinctly East European feel."  Track 12 is a James Taylor tune called That Lonesome Road. Done here in four part vocal harmony with John Delaney at lead vocal, you get a Folk sound that Woody Guthrie would be proud of. In track 4 William Joliff's tune, The Laughlin Boy, Betsy sings a sweet American ballad about Quaker conscientious objection. And track 7, Sailing To Philadelphia by Mark Knopfler, is actually an imagined conversation between Jeremiah Dixon and Charlie Mason who ran the line that divided the frontier between Virginia and Pennsylvania, and set the stage for the American Civil War.

You also find traditional beauty in the Scottish tradition like track nine: T-Man's Jig--I'll Get Wedded In My Auld Claes--Rosewood, and the gorgeous last track Now Westlin Winds by Robert Burns. This last track showcases Gordon's deep and smooth vocals, a perfect foil to the sweet words of The Bard! 

But my favorite pieces are three very traditionally Irish pieces: track 13: The Humors of Ballyconnell-The Roscommon-The Reconciliation, as well as two compositions by Gordon himself: track 11 - The Ghost of Willie Clancy and track 2 - Eoin Murphy's Slides and Polkas. Joined by traditional Irish fiddler Matt Cranitch on track 2 and with a toe-tapping uillean pipes solo by Mickey Dunne on track 11, BTP absolutely carries you away to Ireland! And on track 13 you can almost close your eyes and hear The Chieftains. For me this is their strength!

With their music you will think, laugh, and then be carried back to the roots of it all! They are a true gem. So, give them a listen and pick up a copy of their new cd, Paleontology.  You won't be sorry you did!

 

Review of “The Music Plays Me” at   www.Rambles.net

Beyond The Pale’s latest CD, The Music Plays Me is an enjoyable recording, with a warm, organic sound and an affable, relaxed way with songs and tunes. The traditionals -- mostly, not exclusively, instrumentals here -- are especially strong. The multi-instrumentalist Gordon McLeod, also the producer, is a splendid fiddler though he is, as well, perfectly capable on mandolin, whistle, bodhran and other instruments. McLeod also sings, as does everybody else: Christy McLeod (guitar and percussion), Betsy Cummings (accordion, bodhran) and John Delaney (flute, hammered dulcimer, saxophones, whistles, concertina).

BTP has a keen ear for out-of-the-ordinary material. Most of it will be fresh even to informed folk fans. And when it's something familiar, such as "Red Wing," it's done in an innovative arrangement. In fact, the medley of which that tune is a part (the other parts are "Cuckoo's Nest" and "Old French"), the 12th and last cut, is to my hearing the best of them all. Which is not to say anything on this amiable outing is ever less than satisfying and pleasurable.

Though all the material is played in Celtic style, some of the songs are from well outside the tradition. The most unusual of these is Keith Grimwood and Ezra Idlet's odd and lovably cranky "Who Are These People," an exasperated (albeit tuneful) rant -- I am confident the only song ever devoted to the subject -- set off by the stupefyingly unrealistic depiction of human beings in popular fiction, movies and television shows. Well, somebody had to put those sentiments to music. And about time, I say.

by  Jerome Clark    www.Rambles.net

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)

See the Merchandise Page to find out how you can get your copy on CD. Check out the Audio Page to find out selections and hear Real Audio examples

Queen of Skye—Review in Hot Press Magazine ( Ireland ) May 2005

Beyond The Pale Queen Of Sky  (Ceol Na Féinne)

03 May 2005

[This is the] latest release from Texas-based quartet Beyond The Pale…, with superb vocals courtesy of three fine singers. Christy McLeod (guitar) does a great cover of Elton John’s ‘Where To Now, St. Peter?’ as well as a witty trad song about meat and self-preservation collected in County Clare, while the smooth-voiced Betsy Cummings (accordion) performs an old Western Swing number called ‘You Can’t Break My Heart’ with aplomb; and Gordon McLeod (fiddle, guitar, mandolin) takes the lead on the album’s standout track – ‘Hester’, a poignant song of his own composition inspired by a gravestone in Quin Abbey. Completing the lineup is John Delaney on flute, whistle, hammered dulcimer, sax and backing vocals.

Sarah McQuaid
Rating: 7 / 10

 

The Music Plays Me CD Review written by Jed Marum appearing in April 2006 issue of  The Ceili

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

Here's what The Greenman Review one of the UKs leading folk reviews had to say about Beyond The Pale’s CD “Strange Turns’:

The album starts with a novel arrangement of two Celtic tunes, 'Julia Delaney' and 'Jerusalem Ridge' wrapped around the Dolly Parton song 'Jolene'. This threw me for a minute or two wondering what I was about to listen to, until the second track kicked off with the wail of the Highland bagpipes playing the 'Drunken Piper/Glass 'o' Beer/Dick Gossip's'. Immediately I knew I was going to like this album, with its mixture of Scottish, Irish and English folk song. This is the second CD from Beyond the Pale, the first being Angel on the 7th Star, and I believe they had a previous recording only on cassette tape called Life is all Chequered.

Although this Texas based band is virtually unknown on this side of the pond, they must have visited these shores at some time, if only to find source material. This is evident from some of the songs on the album. So folkies in the States are in for a rare treat, because, as yet these songs may not be widely know in the U.S. Listeners will understand what I mean when listening to Beyond the Pale's rendition of Mick Ryan's song 'The Widows Promise' (here called 'The Widow'), always one of my favourite songs.

Let me introduce the band to you. On Highland bagpipes, and Scottish small pipes is Richard Kean, with Gordon McLeod on fiddle, guitar, bass guitar, mandolin, piano, percussion, and vocals, Christy Mcleod on guitar, percussion, and vocals, John Delaney on: flute, whistles, hammered dulcimer, saxophones, concertina, and vocals, and Betsy Cummings on accordion, percussion, and vocals. Throughout the album, this largely acoustic band blends the instruments together very well. Betsy or Christy can also harmonise seamlessly when the occasion arises, and they also take most of the lead vocals.

Strange Turns also contains songs about transportation to Australia, the legend of a wicked king in Ireland, and a music hall song, that used to be sung a lot, that I have not heard for years, called 'With Her Head Tucked Underneath Her Arm', adding just the right amount of humour to make the whole album very entertaining.

Someone once asked me why I like Celtic folk music so much. I replied it must be something in the blood, my being of Scottish Celtic descent. I am sure this is the case with Beyond The Pale. It is a nice easy album that is going to please the listener. This band deserve to be heard by a wider audience, and not just in their home state of Texas. I can wholeheartedly recommend this album and be sure you won't be disappointed. [Peter Massey]

See the Merchandise Page to find out how you can get your copy on CD. Check out the Audio Page to find out selections and hear Real Audio examples

Dirty Linen Review of Strange Turns (#110, Feb/Mar 2004)

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.

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 Betsy Cummings, handle most of the lead vocal duties, but happily the splendidly gravel-voiced Gordon McLeod is on hand to relieve any excess sugar. Highland piper Richard Kean adds a fine Caledonian element to the mix.—Sarah McQuaid

 

From: "Catherine M Sherer" Sent: Thursday, April 29, 2004 2:00 AM

Subject: Strange Turns

I just wanted y'all to know I really love this album!  I just can't stop listening to it!  The whole album is really good, it actually moves me!  The vocals are wonderful, the arrangements are fantastic, and I just can't get enough of it.  What y'all've done is really impressive.  and I just thought you should know . . .
 
  love,
  Catherine Sherer

 

CD Review – Oueen of Skye by Beyond the Pale—The Ceili, autumn 2004 by Lee Kelton,

Ok, I admit it – I really like this bunch! The shear fun, imagination, innovation, musical diversity and, yeah, talent these guys exhibit on this disk and on stage puts them in a class of their own. The band members are: Betsy Cummings, John Delaney, Christy McLeod and Gordon McLeod. And, while each has their own stand-alone talent, it’s the blending of their individual strengths that make this group one of the most outstanding regional bands around!

The CD is named for a song about immigration, The Queen of Skye, and reflects the band’s ongoing immigration to new ideas about the music they play. The disk also reflects their broad range of music knowledge and creativity - they are not just a  “lets play jigs and reels again and again” band – which, I believe, is one of their outstanding strengths!

The disk contains 13 cuts, some traditional selections, some original works and some acknowledged creations, that make this a fun CD. It also showcases Gordon McLeod’s growing talents as an imaginative producer).

The first cut, Farrell O’Gara’s-The Bellharbor-Siobhan O’Donnell’s, is a collection of traditional Irish reels that showcase each band member’s particular talent. It a great introduction to a fun, eclectic CD ! The second cut, Where to Now, St Peter?, as sung by Christy,  is a haunting melody that asks a question that we all may be asking before our lives are done. This piece seemed to grow on me as I played it (guilt, Nora, Enya or fungus?). The string arrangements are first rate and reflect the touch of a real pro. The third cut, Mooney, is a creation of Gordon, The Lyricist-Fiddle.!  Piece well backed up by the  band members.

The fourth cut, Wow! What a throwback to golden days of western swing, smoky west Texas honky-tonks, cold Lone Star, jeans n’ boots, platinum bo-fonts and bruised knuckles! You Can’t Break My Heart, is a fine ol’ song done in a sorta Patsy Cline style by Miss Betsy Cummings, late of Ft. Worth, Texas.The Fifth cut, Millionaire, is a rare treat! A solo by John Delaney! John, backed up by Gordon’s sorta “bluesy” guitar, is one of those multi-talented folks who we need to hear more of! Hopefully on the next CD, we’ll hear more of Mr Delaney.The sixth cut, The Butlers of Glen Avenue, is a good collection of session tunes  that once again underline how all the member’s talents come together to make fine, danceable music.

The seventh cut, From Me to You, is a Janis Ian song as done by Ms Betsy Cummings – a bit autobiographic and certainly heartfelt. The song has a style reminiscing of some early Mannheim Steamroller stuff. The eight cut, The Spanish Lady, is probably my favorite cut on the disk. The interplay of the band’s various instruments with Gordon’s 1920s crooners style of singing is brilliant! The ninth cut, La Sansonette-Coridinio, is two French-Portuguese dance tunes collected by John Delaney. If you have ever been folk dancing, you will recognize one or both of these tunes. Great dancing material!! The tenth cut, The Salt, is a Christy McLeod semi-original song. A fun, message tune done in the traditional style that reminds us to watch the salt and stay off the farm. The following reel is well done.

The eleventh cut, The Queen of Skye, the CD’s namesake, is one of those songs that always gives me goose bumps!! It’s a heroic tail of leaving all you have known and taking a chance on the unknown future – much like my own people did.The twelfth cut, Fred Finn’s-Father Newman’s-Frank’s, is a collection of reels that again, show case the band’s wonderful mix of talent and enthusiasm. Don’t sit there, get up and dance you slugs!

The thirteenth cut, Hester, is another creation of Gordon, The Songsmith. A well done and creative bit of story telling sung by Gordon that has echo of Evita and early Beatles. Good lead in by Delaney’s flute. The ‘Choir” does fine work on this one

Lee Kelton

CD Review of  Strange Turns – Beyond the Pale—in The Ceili , winter 2003 by John Hebley

Take components of two of the finest bands in North Texas, mix together and blend in one heck of a piper and one cannot fail to produce exceptional music. The newly reformed Beyond the Pale combines the talents of Gordon and Christy McLeod with Betsy Cummings and John Delaney from Lost Tribe and the very fine piping of Richard Kean. This, their first CD with this new five-piece lineup, is all that I expected it to be. Strange Turns, so named because of the way it suddenly changes gear and goes of in a new direction, is a mixture of old and new, jigs, reels, and even polka, traditional and modern. It contains some of the songs that we have heard in live sets for some time as well as new and original material.

Who but Beyond the Pale could combine the traditional Julia Delaney, played on the fiddle by Gordon, with Dolly Parton’s Jolene sung by Christy and then take another turn by ending with Gordon’s fiddle and foot tapping in Jerusalem Ridge. That’s the way this CD starts, and it continues with the same meanderings.

Betsy Cummings takes the lead as she sings one of my all time favorites, Green Among The Gold. A beautiful ballad telling the story of how the Irish prisoners who were transported from Britain to the penal colony of Australia, and how they took their own culture of music and dance with them to the new land. 200 years later the Irish influence in southeast Australia is as strong as it ever was.

The ancient Irish legend of the Children of Lir was the inspiration behind Gordon’s original composition, The Fate of the Children of Lir. The legend tells of a widowed king Lir, beguiled by beauty, chooses a wicked stepmother Aoife, for his four children. Over time, Aoife becomes jealous of the affection Lir has for his children. She decides to take them into the forest and leave them there. Once in the forest, she decides instead to cast a spell on the children. She transforms them into swans; swans that can sing. They are forced to endure this fate for 900 years.

Just when think you understand where the music is leading you it takes yet another strange turn. From the legends of ancient Ireland we are rapidly transported to the all to horrific truth of King Henry VIII’s England. With Her Head lucked Underneath Her Arm is a macabre piece of musical wit, by Bert Lee, R.P. and Harris Weston, referring to Anne Boleyn, the most famous of King Henry Vlll's unlucky wives. The King had her beheaded, but soon found that she wasn't through with him-for every night at midnight she walked the tower, her bloody head held underneath her arm. Gordon puts on a strong London accent, stressing the “‘ead tooked oonderneef ‘er arm” to sing us this tale. The Yeoman Warders of the Tower (Beefeaters) will tell you with an absolutely straight face that even today her ghost can be seen at midnight walking the high battlements.

There is hardly anything more stirring than a good pipe tune. Richard Kean’s pipes really sing in The Hoochie Dance, aptly named because that is just what this tune makes one want to do. Try it and see if you can sit still all the way to the end. And who could resist Sputnik’s Lullaby, Richard’s song to his toothless cat. Throughout the CD, the tunes are as much fun as the songs, even for someone like me who really gets “into” singing along.

For most of the CD, and for that matter during live concerts, John Delaney is the master behind the hammered dulcimer, or flute or whistle. On Honest Work, however, he walks to the front and delights us with an a capella version of Todd Rundgren’s all too timely tale of union workers who are not afraid to work, but who are sadly driven to drink and despair through lack of honest work.

A new song that I have never heard before I got a sample of this CD takes you on yet another strange turn. I’ll not spoil it by telling you the whole story behind the song. Suffice it to say that The Widow is an amusing tale sung by Betsy, of the battle between the widow and the Devil and, more importantly, which one wins.

If you don’t have a Beyond the Pale CD in your collection, shame on you; get out and buy this one! If you do already have one or more Beyond the Pale CD’s, go get this one, too! You’re gonna love it.

Beyond the Pale are joined on this CD by Morgan McLeod on drums and Dirje Smith on Cello. Production, recording and mastering is by Gordon McLeod.