Traditional Irish dance music has somewhat of a different meaning for Greta, Solana and Willow Gothard. For these sisters, "traditional" refers to not only classic tunes preserved throughout history, but it also reflects the family traditions the Seattle-based siblings have developed in their years performing together.
Part of that family tradition involves innovating musically -- combining music and dance influences from different genres -- which the trio continues to do with each album they record.
The three sisters are classically trained musicians and decorated Irish dancers with a stage show and a collection of six recorded albums to their name. "Story Girl," the Gothard Sisters' sixth CD released earlier this month, mixes well-known Celtic songs and original tracks written and arranged by one or more of the sisters. And, as eldest sister Greta, 24, pointed out, the group has drawn heavily from its Irish dance influences, making this latest album is the most "danceable" yet.
Tracks like "The Sailor and the Mermaid," a jig-reel hybrid written by Greta and Willow; Greta's "Celebration Reel"; "Midsummer Jigs"; and "The Three Coins" are especially dancer-friendly. Any Irish dancer's ears will quickly perk up upon recognizing the hard shoe percussive rhythms in "The Three Coins," a lively reel tune written by middle sister Willow, 22.
Even the music video for "The Three Coins" displays the siblings' breezy Irish step dance style, performed hillside in cowboy boots.
What the Gothard Sisters manage to achieve in just 12 tracks is a harmonious blend of traditional Celtic with hints of Americana. There's a country-western earthiness that gives the songs a lively, approachable, down-home sound. And 16-year-old sister Solana's angelic vocals add a youthful life to otherwise somber traditional ballads or laments such as "Scarborough Fair" and "Fields of Athenry."
For the Irish dancer, "Story Girl" is a refreshing alternative to a predictable feis CD -- and it offers a few tracks that would lend themselves nicely to stage performances and casual dance-outs.
But "Story Girl" isn't just for the step dancers. It's a collection of melodious tracks from a wide spectrum of Celtic cultures with a lively modern American twist that would delight any fan of classical, Celtic or country music.