CELTIC CALM: Relaxation fans, take note: Dannsair celebrates the release of its new album, Celtic Meditations, at Dargan’s Irish Pub (18 E. Ortega St.) on Thursday, May 17, at 5:30 p.m. The Celtic-fusion band hosts this special occasion at its home base for the last 20 years, beginning with free appetizers and a band meet and greet from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m., with a concert to follow.
While the irrepressible ambassadors to Emerald Isle culture will surely kick up a jolly craic with rousing renditions of traditional and contemporary tunes at this gig, it’s going to be a slightly quieter affair than usual. On its new album, the eight-piece act showcases a slower, more thoughtful side, summoning up the ancient Celtic tradition of breath-prayer meditation. Celtic Meditations includes pieces drawn from peaceful Celtic tunes throughout Europe — Galicia, Breton — and the diaspora into America, too.
Russell Doherty, the founder and bandleader, was inspired to make an album of meditative music after a brush with basal cell carcinoma. “I had to calm down, and in between operations, I got very much into meditating,” Doherty said. Unwinding daily to a Mozart for Meditation CD, he found peace in breathing exercises and felt inspired to navigate the calmer reaches of his band’s catalog.
The resulting rich tapestry of an album features nearly 20 pieces inspired by various geographies, mainly seasides and waterways of the world: the cliffs of County Clare, the castled Hebrides islands, the oaken California coast. “Clearly, we know part of the culture is the fun music for the pub; but also, there’s lots of stories in the literature about the sea, and the splendor and the beauty of Ireland proper, and that’s what this celebrates,” said producer and longtime Dannsair collaborator Dom Camardella.
Camardella is the longtime owner and magic maker of Santa Barbara Sound Design — a man who has for 40 years brought to life the sounds of acts such as Depeche Mode, Kenny Loggins, and Yes. Celtic Meditations sees him revisit his new-age and smooth-jazz days with the Higher Octave Collection. “Without Dom, none of my CDs would have been possible,” Doherty said. “You come in here, and he totally does not bring his ego to your project. He embraces whatever you want to do, and then he tries to find ways to support what you’re doing.”
Raise a glass to all things relaxing at Dargan’s on Thursday and support the life and legacies of these amazingly prolific and uncommonly warmhearted gents.
FIRE & FUNK: On the opposite end of the musical spectrum, this week offers up a chance to hear some of the freshest grooves from points near and far. First, the Con Brio show at SOhO Restaurant & Music Club (1221 State St.) will be the place to be Friday, May 18, at 9 p.m., with opener Echo. Rarely does Santa Barbara welcome soul funk so searing, a San Franciscan outfit akin to Sly & the Family Stone and James Brown but with mind-bendy brass breakdowns not unlike Miles Davis’s Bitches Brew; the roof of the sucker may be torn off, so to speak.
TIME FOR TUAREG: In a very special event, Mercury Lounge (5871 Hollister Ave., Goleta) and KCSB cohost Mdou Moctar Monday, May 21, at 9 p.m. Originally from a small village in the Azawagh desert of Niger, Moctar plays music that is a hypnotically spiritual and intensely felt style of guitar-driven desert blues. For those who missed the recent Imarhan show at the Merc, you must make it out to this one.
YELLOW FLOWER CHILD: Last but not least, the Cuyama Mama herself, Jan Smith, will play a show at that hidden gem, The Piano Kitchen (430 Rose Ave.), on Saturday, May 19, 7:30 p.m., in celebration of her new album, Yellow Flowers. Natalie Bartlett and Alice Bradley will provide harmonies. Following, Michael Bernard, Jim Connolly, and Paige Tautz will host a variety show, with jokes and shenanigans untold. It will be a great time.