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In a heartwarming display of international musical cooperation and human solidarity, scores of artists from England, Scotland, Wales, Ireland and the United States have joined hands to create Compass Records’ Hands Across The Water. Produced by Andrea Zonn and John Cutliffe, the CD’s proceeds will go to programs assisting Southeast Asian children whose lives were uprooted by 2004’s devastating tsunami. Yet beyond its tangible contribution to disaster relief, the project gives another rare gift to those who hear it—an entire set of unprecedented, compelling collaborations between some of the finest performers of Celtic and American roots music.

There is no “short list” of Hands Across the Water contributors, for all are among the most respected and preeminent artists in their fields: the 16-track CD features Darrell Scott with Muireann Nic Amhlaoibh, Oisin McAuley and Paul Rodden; Jim Lauderdale with Maura O’Connell; Karen Matheson with Donald Shaw, The Duhks and Bryan Sutton; Jon Randall with Máirtín O’Connor and Alison Brown; Tim O’Brien with Lúnasa; Sharon Shannon with Jackson Brown; Solas with Mindy Smith; John and Fiona Prine with Dermot Byrne; Beth Nielsen Chapman with Christina Quinn, Bonnie Raitt, Michael McGoldrick and Donald Shaw; Paul Brady with Rodney Crowell; Blue Merle with Pauline Scanlon; Altan with Vince Gill; Cerys Matthews with John Jorgenson and Stuart Duncan; Andrea Zonn with Flook and Bill Shanley; John Cowan with the Brock McGuire Band; Jerry Douglas with Ciaran Tourish—and adding still more depth to the album depth is an equally lengthy and stellar array of backing musicians.

While some of these collaborations bring together masters of a particular genre, the CD also features many top artists working outside their usual styles and formats. Vince Gill’s English-language version of a traditional Irish song reworked by Altan is one such highlight; as is “An Occasional Song,” a traditional Welsh number performed by European rock star Cerys Matthews with help from Stuart Duncan and John Jorgenson.

Hands Across the Water was born in a phone conversation between Zonn and Cutliffe last December. Cutliffe, a transatlantic presence in the Irish music world, both behind the scenes and as a player, was horrified by the destruction caused by tsunamis in Southeast Asia. Zonn, an accomplished solo artist and one of Nashville’s busiest fiddlers (regular player with James Taylor, Vince Gill, Alison Brown, Lyle Lovett), suggested that between the two of them, they knew some “pretty good musicians” who “wouldn’t mind helping out if we were to set something up to ease the suffering caused by the Tsunami.” Both remarks turned out to be vast understatements. Cutliffe emailed Garry West of Compass Records, who responded from vacation within an hour, throwing his full support behind the idea. In under a year, Hands Across the Water brought together many of acoustic music’s biggest names, all of whom gave very generously of their work, making time in homes, buses, and hotel rooms to contribute to the project.

Recording the album was truly a trans-national effort, employing the services of 27 studios, 29 studio engineers, and over 100 musicians from Nashville to Sydney, Australia. As Cutliffe wrote, “I myself have driven more than 10,000 miles and we can’t even begin to count the thousands of emails and hours of phone calls that have kept lines buzzing worldwide. We have uploaded and downloaded gigabytes of session tracks and mixes.” Contributing artists chose their own tracks, offering songs and
pieces for Cutliffe and Zonn to mould by adding additional collaborators. The resulting collection is a unique blend of the very best in American roots and Celtic music, an achingly beautiful soundscape that affirms the spirit of working together which made it possible.

FEATURING: Altan • Blue Merle • Paul Brady
• The Brocke McGuire Band • Alison Brown
• Jackson Browne • Dermot Byrne
• Beth Nielsen Chapman • John Cowan
• Rodney Crowell • Jerry Douglas
• The Duhks • Stuart Duncan • Flook
• Vince Gill • John Jorgenson
• Jim Lauderdale • Lúnasa • Oisín McAuley
• Michael McGoldrick • Karen Matheson
• Cerys Matthews • Muireann Nic Amhlaoibh
• Tim O’Brien • Maura O’Connell
• Máirtin O’Connor • Fiona Prine • John Prine
• Jon Randall • Paul Rodden
• Pauline Scanlon • Darrel Scott
• Sharon Shannon • Donald Shaw
• Mindy Smith • Solas • Bryan Sutton
• Ciaran Tourish • Andrea Zonn