James Olin Oden’s The Craic is Free is an awesome album that I could see a lot of pretentious hipsters snubbing because it sounds like a mix between Cat Stevens, Gordon Lightfoot, bluegrass, and a heavy dose of traditional Celtic music rather than Grizzly Bear. I say the hell with them. If you can't at least appreciate this music then you don’t have good taste in my opinion. James Olin Oden is a singer/songwriter of Celtic Roots music out of Raleigh, NC. All of his music, whether Celtic or not, or slow or fast, exhibits distinctly danceable rhythms. Oden is a multi-instrumentalist who plays everything from the bodhran to classical guitar and initially formed the Irish Wolfhounds. After their breakup he decided to go it on his own and has produced two albums: Samhain's March: A Winter Journey and The Craic is Free.
The Craic is Free is an album that just makes you feel good and forget your worries. It reminds of me of people frolicking in a field holding jugs of whiskey in their hands and smiling. Although this scene is something you might see at Oktoberfest or at the beginning of Braveheart, if this music was playing I would be perfectly content and enjoying myself in the confines of my bedroom as well. Interestingly enough and related to the positive vibes I was getting from the music Oden says: “The Craic is Free started off as one song that I wrote by that name. The song, though Celtic in theme, is executed with more Appalachian-like rhythms with a similar treatment vocally. It's subject, the Craic, that wonderful spirit of good times found amongst friends sober or otherwise, is the central theme of the music on the album.” While I thoroughly enjoyed the album I have to say it would be a bit much to take in at 16 songs. He decided to cover some traditional tunes as well which were included on the album.
The album's first song “The Craic is Free” is a jovial song full of acoustic guitar, fiddle and subtle percussive elements. His voice is as optimistic as the music and he also does a great job with his female counterpart. “The Travellers Itch” is an instrumental number that certainly sounds Celtic whereas “Bring on the Night/Sidhe Beag Sidhe Mhór” is the slowest and most somber song on the album. The good times roll on with what I would consider is one helluva drinking song called “It Couldn’t Have Been the Whiskey.” I really enjoyed the string work on “Listen Louder” as I heard a mandolin that had some very catchy melodies. “Rare Auld Mountain Dew/Chief O'Neil's Cavalry March” was one of the traditional songs and fell perfectly in line with his own material.
Overall, I really enjoyed this album even though it was a bit long. The next time I'm in a somber mood I know what I’m going to listen to.
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