If you've already been enchanted by some of Green Linnet's artists, like Altan or Capercaille, for example, the TWENTIETH ANNIVERSARY COLLECTION is a great way to find out which artists to search for next.
The compilation opens with "The Rainy Day/First You Must Learn The Grip", a monologue and short piece by Seamus Ennis, whose pipe-playing was one of the first offerings by the label. Highlights of the first disc include De'anta's "Culloden's Harvest", a harrowing song about a decisive Scottish battle, Relativity's lesser-known "There Was A Lady", and Patrick Street's cover of PCO's "Music For a Found Harmonium." I was pleasantly surprised by the Milladoiro tune "A Farruqina", which shows that the music of Galicia is just as infectious as anything from the British isles. Fusion between Irish and world music is shows nicely in Eileen Iver's "On Horseback."
The second disc is, I feel, the strongest. "The Wishing Tree," Seamus McGuire's incredible piece based on the poem by 1995 Nobel laureate Seamus Heany, is one of the most touching pieces of music Green Linnet has released. Wolfstone's "Ballavanich" is one of the most powerful pieces by this "Celtic rock" band, featuring screaming bagpipes among electric guitars in a way suprisingly faithful to tradition. The British folk singer June Tabor contributes "No Man's Land/Flowers Of The Forest", a slow and moving rumination on the savagery of World War I. "Pharoah", a tune by the master songwriter Richard Thompson, is featured here covered by The House Band, who transform the original into a very distinctive form. There are two songs on the second disc, however, which alone make the collection worth getting. The first is Touchstone's "Bolen's Fancy/The Dunmore Lasses/The Maid Behind the Bar/The Glass of Beer." Touchstone, featuring Triona Ni Domhnaill who subsequently joined Relativity and Nightnoise, was a fresh combination of Irish music with traditional music of Appalachia, and deserved much more attention than it received at the time. The album's closer is the other brilliant second, "A Jig and Five Reels" by The Bothy Band (another Triona Ni Domhnaill band), which was the first great group on Green Linnet and the inspiration for many of its artists to come.
The TWENTIETH ANNIVERSARY COLLECTION also includes a thick booklet giving the background of each song and brief anecdotes by label founder Wendy Newton about each artist.
Green Linnet has suffered in recent years, with a great deal of its artists becoming discontented with its management and moving elsewhere, but the first twenty years was full of fantastic music. Green Linnet introduced authentic traditional music to a common American audience, when before there were only pop hybrids like Enya and Clannad, and it also showed the world that some American musicians such as Eileen Ivers were capable of taking on traditional music. The TWENTIETH ANNIVERSARY COLLECTION is the best Green Linnet compilation and worth getting for anyone looking for new horizons in traditional music of the British Isles and elsewhere.