Things to Do in Fort Wayne and Beyond

Arvel Bird / Animal Totems

Published September 5, 2002

Heads Up! This article is 20 years old.

Many of the 12 musical experiences are ensemble pieces with the violin playing a prominent, but not dominant, role. “Mata (Bear)” is an upbeat collection of jazzy rock melodies with a plunky electric piano rounding out the rhythms. Native flutes carry a haunting melody in “Wapiti (Elk)” and “Puma (Cougar)” is a true ensemble effort with a dramatic mixture of piano, guitar and violin. The piece for the red-tail hawk is a nice departure in that is piano-based with the violin playing a gentle, gliding melody touched with melancholy. “Orca (Whale)” is another gem with a tranquil feeling of being underwater and looking up to see light filtering peacefully down. Heavy reverb on the violin gives the sense of whale songs in these dark waters.

In contrast to the heavily arranged group album Animal Totems is Rakish Paddy, Bird’s other release of 2002. Here, small ensembles play through a variety of traditional Scottish and Irish melodies with the violin, or rather the fiddle, unabashedly taking center stage. The opening track begins with fiddle and guitar on “Rakish Paddy,” but adds pipes to end on “Morrison’s Jig,” always a crowd pleaser. Guitar and a complicated button accordion part are added to the medley containing “The Minor Hornpipe,” “Quarrelsome Piper,” and “Job of Journey Work,” — all combining to a jolly good time. Despite its name, “Sleepy Maggie vs. Drowsy Maggie” is an invigorating dance of energetic fiddle and frantic whistles that guarantee toe tapping. The bowed bass fiddle gives an eerie, dark edge to the sad “The Star of the County Down” while the final track, a combination of “Chief O’ Niel’s Favorite” and “Cherish The Ladies,” is full of flash, vigor, and enough spunk to make even the stodgiest wall flower take to the dance floor.

Throughout the album penny whistle, flute, bodhran, button accordion and uilleann pipes maintain the integrity of the culture and the music.

As with past Bird albums, the recordings are top-shelf and the musicianship above reproach. Fans of Celtic and world music will find much to enjoy in Rakish Paddy, while followers of New Age, Native American and inventive instrumental music would do well to stand in the shadow of Animal Totems. Visit for more information and song samples.

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