CBC Radio Canada Review
Right-brains come to appreciate good writing,
whatever it's form, like a fine wine. As unlikely as a delightful journey
liner notes in an album might make, Dan Toher's song descriptions draw
postcard-perfect circles around you from romantic Irish cottages to
the sultry thick evenings of Egypt and Spain. A torrid mix of Celtic
and Latin, reggae and flamenco, with a side of rock and even R&B,
you'd be hard pressed to find a group that blends so many different
world influences in such a delicious way as 'Dan Toher and the Celtic
Salsa Express'. They don't dabble with crossed genres, they invent them,
own them, master them. Collaborating with musical giants ranging from
Riverdance's Robbie Casserley, Commitments singer Karen Coleman, the
Corrs' guitarist Anto Drennan, Ray Charles' singer Angie Workman, and
the late Audrey Collins who lead the Irish National Symphony Orchestra,
Celtic Salsa seems right at home in any musical circle. The hard part?
Picking just one song to share here, since each burns a uniquely demanding
signature in your soul. Do yourself a favour and make you next vacation
a click on this group's link, and indulge yourself with each and every
one of these patently exquisite scores. Intimate and imaginative, provocative
and profound, terminally brilliant.
Sue Braiden, CBC Radio Canada
Dan Toher doesn't do things in a small way. His
band - ambitiously called The Dan Toher Rock & Salsa Express - sports
nine members, and that may swell to ten or eleven if he adds the second
-guitarist and conga player he's itching to.
"You've got to go wherever the song takes you," he says
It's now taken him to Gotham, after stints gigging in Ireland and Spain.
Toher, a Dublin native, found it difficult to sustain a musical career
in Ireland in the mid-nineties, especially with a large band. "The recession
was hitting there, I couldn't really make it work," he says. "One of
my singles, called 'Hope,' got some decent airplay - but 1 couldn't
really make that pay on the road in Ireland."
"Ireland is a great place to play, especially around
Christmas and the summer - but you might as well hibernate during the
winter months," says Toher. "It's changed a great deal since the economic
boom happened - I'm delighted to see that - but in other ways, only
cover bands like U2 tribute bands, or the Australian Doors, are raking
it in. It's still difficult enough on the local scene in Dublin - which
is surprising when everybody is driving around in a BMW'
Toher later went to Spain to live and play music. There,
he absorbed Iberian and Flamenco influences that have helped define
his sound. He's also a fan of the blues. "I think there's a closeness
between Irish music and the blues," he says. "Perhaps it's because both
have a simple form. But in a way, they're both profound."
Toher is most interested in crossing musical boundaries.
"I think over here [in the U.S.], there's pressure from the record companies
to find your sound and stick to it. But I'm not afraid to move out across
different genres, into reggae, into latin," says Toher. "I'm definitely
a fan of melodic music."
A listen to Toher's material bears that statement out.
"Avoca" is a breezy groove oriented song with hints of latin influence.
"Red Cross" develops from a laid back intro into a pushy ska-flavored
beat. And Toher displays impressive vocal chops on the jazzy "Slip Away."
Some of Toher's band members have impressive credentials as well. Backup
singer Angie Workman was one of Ray Charles' famed "Ray-lettes." The
horn section has worked with Kevin Eubanks' Tonight Show band. And two
members of Toher's studio ensemble, drummer Robbie Casserly and guitarist
Anto Drennan - have recently moved on to touring with Riverdance and
The Corrs, respectively.
So he's struck out into NYC, taking his big band into
the pubs. Some have tried to dissuade him, but Toher will have none
of it. "I've had people take me aside and tell me, 'Don't bring a classy
band into a bar, they just want pub rock' I don't believe that. People
always appreciate good playing - that's what I'm finding so far".
'Off The Record' column by Tom Dunphy
originally published in 'Irish Voice'
One About The Irish Latin Band?
Celtic Salsa Express, Red Lion, Bleeker Street, Friday 26th May
Well! This was quite a surprise.
Here I was expecting standard Bleeker Street fare. In the sixties this
was THE place - bars and coffee houses teeming with budding talent.
Dylan, the Doors, Hendrix cut their teeth in these clubs. Sadly that
was then, now it's all students and tourists with cover bands fresh
from the day job. Let's say the place has lost a little of it's intensity.
Thankfully there is always an exception to the rule.
Just as I'm about to join my friends at
the bar, on march a pro nine piece act, visually stunning, who launch
into a rock samba with note perfect harmonies, infectious horns - suddenly
this fabulous diva is singing Yeats "He wishes for the clothes of heaven".
A truly magic moment. They throw the audience a bone with Latin dance
classics. The next piece starts Irish, almost reggae, horns kick in
like a hot salsa - then, bang! it's back to reel time, before we're
off again. The girls are in R&B heaven, the audience are on their feet.
Next we're treated to a Riverdance type rhythm commandeered by Ivano
on congas until the guitarists rock it out one moment Irish, next Caribbean.
Fantastic! The leader opens on a slow rock ballad, "New Dawn", building
and building until he hands it over to his diva which she takes by the
scruff of the neck and sings to the rafters. Awesome!
It's all good from here - funk rock to
calypso and ska, with an Irish reel on flute that gets given the rock
treatment. Everyone's on their feet, you want to hear more, you gotta.
I saw a video crew - send me a copy guys a.s.a.p.
Big Ambition - Rockin' In Yonkers
Celtic Salsa Express, Rory Dolan's
Once in a while you come across
an act that could literally go all the way. You follow their progress
to see how they handle the ups and, more often, downs of the business,
wondering if they've got what it takes.
So it was is Rory Dolan's last Monday -
a new contender set themselves for a shot at the brass ring. Fronted
by Irishman Dan Toher, I counted nine musicians onstage. Toher used
the band to great effect. Duetting with his backing singers, it really
opened up when handing over Ray Charles singer Angie Workman and letting
the powerful horns (two saxes and a trumpet) rock out. The material
was a clever mix of styles written with breathtaking arrangements. Real
hip and some great songs too. They only played one encore - shame, they
should have milked it more. I had so much fun. More!
The Oyster Festival
Celtic Salsa Express, Lafayette Street
Down on Layfayette a sunny Saturday
in October fortified by oysters washed down with Guiness. The undoubted
highlight of the day for me was the multinational multiracial Celtic
Salsa Express. They seemed to radiate a sense of fun. Although I hadn't
heard their album I found myself drawn in by their high energy mix of
horns, percussion and clamorous black divas. The were followed on by
Riverdance worthy Eileen Ivers whose rootsier mix kept the pot boiling.