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,
Sue Braiden, CBC Radio Canada
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Dan's Ambitious Musical Plan
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
"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'
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Hear The One About The Irish Latin Band?
The 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
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.
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Big Sound Big Ambition - Rockin' In Yonkers
The 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!
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The Oyster Festival
The 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