Across the Pond – JigJam

Ireland’s JigJam effectively crosses that narrow divide that separates Celtic music from bluegrass basics, doing so in a way that successfully melds the two genres while also making it difficult to discern where one sends and the other begins. Their new album, appropriately titled Across the Pond, makes that conclusion all too clear, courtesy of an instrumental array that finds common ground through a strikingly dual delivery. 

The band — which consists of Jamie McKeogh on lead vocals and guitar, Daithu Melia on five string banjo, Gavin Arappe playing mandolin and tenor banjo, and Kevin Buckley on fiddle — demonstrate that dexterity in live performance, where their rousing revelry and playful antics encourage audiences to embrace their wholly celebratory set-up. That was evidenced recently, courtesy of the soaring set they shared at the Dance Tent during the recent 2024 MerleFest. 

Happily then, that same energy and exuberance shines through on the current album as well, aided to some degree by special guests Geoffrey Saunders and Daniel Kinbrough on bass, Becky Buller, Dan Lowery, Monte Moore, and Cathal Guinana on backing vocals, and Billy Tomber who plays the role of the radio deejay during the introduction to the stirring John D. McGurk’s (The Heartbeat of St. Louis).

That expressive approach is immediately evident as well on the album’s three upbeat instrumentals — the exceedingly jaunty The Appalachian Irishman, the Celtic-construct of Bouli Bouli, and the equally infectious Cluck Ole Twig, a play on the Appalachian favorite, Cluck Old Hen. That said, there’s no shortage of other surefire stand-outs — among them, the exceedingly demonstrative, banjo-driven offering, This Heart of Mine, a New Grass Revival classic, and an effortlessly engaging take on the familiar standard, Good Ole Mountain Dew.

To JigJam’s credit, the band is equally adept when it comes to sharing slower songs as well. McKeeogh’s solo composition, Time To Go Home, is particularly affecting, as is the longing lament titled, Across the Pond. Likewise, the billowy ballad, City of Chicago, featuring Buller on vocals and written by Barry Moore (AKA Luka Bloom), resonates within the confines of a more traditional tapestry. 

Ultimately then, JigJam demonstrates a verve and versatility that allows them to transcend any singular style and simply create a sound that doesn’t defer to any preconceived parameters. In that regard they are fully capable of conveying any number of truly tuneful treats. 

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About the Author

Lee Zimmerman

Lee Zimmerman has been a writer and reviewer for the better part of the past 20 years. He writes for the following publications — No Depression, Goldmine, Country Standard TIme, Paste, Relix, Lincoln Center Spotlight, Fader, and Glide. A lifelong music obsessive and avid collector, he firmly believes that music provides the soundtrack for our lives and his reverence for the artists, performers and creative mind that go into creating their craft spurs his inspiration and motivation for every word hie writes.