Eagle Rock Entertainment // 2000 // 110 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Kent Dixon (Retired) // November 8th, 2007
"What I saw in my mother and father was they breathed music. But a good healthy attitude towards music, they had their likes and dislikes. It was a house full of music always." -- Seán Keane, The Chieftains
"It's part of me...it's my whole life. To provide a service of some kind, that's what the good Lord has made you for. And mine is to play music and make people happy." -- Paddy Moloney, The Chieftains
"It's like going back to the well. We all individually have our own sources and we like to get back to those sources. I think it's very necessary, whether it be your own solo album, or whatever project, or just to play with the people you got the music from initially." -- Seán Keane
Music and memories. The older I get, the more convinced I become that the two are intimately entwined, neither existing without the other. I've been blessed with an ear that's hungry for all kinds of music, all styles and all forms. All right...except for some country and hip-hop.
This year, I have been privileged to see both The Police in the second stop of their reunion tour, and André Rieu, Dutch violinist and conductor, now known as the "King of the Waltz." There aren't likely two more diverse artists around, and I enjoy them both. And did I also mention I also relish The Clash, the Gypsy Kings, Enya, and Linkin Park as well?
It may be my Irish and Scottish blood, but I find I love Celtic music most of all. There are two distinct groups of people when it comes to Celtic music: those who, upon hearing it, feel a distinct stirring of emotions and lump in their throat, and those who find a distinct stirring of nausea and a lump in the pit of their stomach; for some strange reason, there seems to be no middle ground.
There is much to love in the Eagle Rock Entertainment release of Water From the Well, as viewers are treated to a variety of ensemble and solo performances with the Chieftains. For the uninitiated, the Chieftains are a musical group that was formed in 1963, and are best known for performing traditional Irish music and introducing it to the world. With members joining and leaving over the years, the core band members have remained the same since 1978.
Hailed by Entertainment Weekly as "Ireland's most celebrated Celtic band" and by Newsweek as "the reigning kings of traditional Irish music," the Chieftains have collaborated with many musicians from a broad range of musical genres including artists such as Van Morrison, Mick Jagger, Elvis Costello, Sinéad O'Connor, The Corrs, Sting, Lyle Lovett, and Rosanne Cash, just to name a few. Watch for Canadian fiddler Ashley MacIsaac during one of the performances included on the DVD...he's the one with the dyed bright red hair. Frank Zappa once said of the band, "the Chieftains are their own culture and I hear traces of not only Celtic history but global history in their work, echoing back to the beginning of time."
Experimenting with other artists of other musical genres has broadened the Chieftains more traditional fan base, while exposing new fans to Irish music who might not otherwise have been interested. By my count, they've released thirty-eight albums, won six Grammys, and received 18 nominations, and also won Emmy, Oscar, and Genie Awards, so I'd say they're doing just fine!
Water from the Well takes viewers on a special journey with the individual members of the Chieftains, back to some of the places where they first learned to love the music they would later perform worldwide. Woven between thirteen songs, performed at a variety of locations from the band's past, band members Kevin Conneff (bodhrán (Celtic drum) and vocals), Derek Bell (harpsichord and piano), Martin Fay (fiddle), Seán Keane (fiddle), Matt Molloy (flute) and Paddy Moloney (tin whistle and Uillean pipes) share their personal stories and cherished memories of Irish music, some of them dating back to childhood. The people, places, and breathtaking landscapes of Ireland serve as the backdrop for much of the presentation, equal in spirit and beauty to the music of the Chieftains.
While the band members refer to remaining true to the original tunes and making sure they are passed on from generation to generation, they're also clearly keen to keeping the music vital and relevant for generations to come. It's sad to note that band member Derek Bell, who shared his plans for the future and his prediction that he would be around for at least another twenty years, died in 2002.
The following performances are included in this release:
Bean An Fhir Rua
The Kilfenora Set
The May Morning Dew
The Galician Set
Live From Matt Molloy's Pub
First House of Connaught
An Poc Ar Buile
The Dingle Set
Planxty George Brabazon
The Donegal Set
The Star Of The County Down (with Van Morrison)
Even though the presentation is anamorphically enhanced and the colors and black levels are strong for the most part, the picture seems somewhat soft, likely due to video masters. Although the audio mix is listed as Dolby Digital 5.1 on the case, the mix on my screener copy was only Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo. That said, the mix I heard was crisp and clean with no distortion or hiss to mar the mix. I missed the 5.1 experience badly, though, as that would have been a real treat!
A narration track with band member Paddy Moloney, "Santiago" Video Clips, "Rocky Road To Dublin" Set, and a Photo Gallery are all listed as extra features on the back cover of the DVD case, but were not included on the screener copy of the DVD I received, so I'm not able to provide any insights on those elements of this release.
If you're not a fan of traditional Irish music, Water From the Well is very likely not going to be your cup of tea. But if you're a fan of the style, grab your penny whistle and bodhrán, or at the very least, curl up with a pint of Guinness and pop Water From the Well into your player...you won't be disappointed.
Water From the Well and the Chieftains are free to Riverdance their way on out of here! Not guilty.
Review content copyright © 2007 Kent Dixon; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2013 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
Studio: Eagle Rock Entertainment
* 1.78:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
Running Time: 110 Minutes
Release Year: 2000
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Paddy Moloney Narration
* "Santiago" Video Clips
* "Rocky Road To Dublin" Set
* Photo Gallery
* Official Band Site
* Wikipedia: The Chieftains