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Sample Track 1:
"Here's A Health To The Company" from Somewhere Along The Road
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"Allison Cross" from Somewhere Along the Road
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RUNA, 2013 Summer Tour Bending Tradition: RUNA Evokes the Living Tales in Celtic Songs on first Western U.S. Tour, 2013

RUNA breathes fresh life into traditional Celtic music by digging deep into the songs and tunes to discover the universal human thread that binds past to present. With influences ranging from bluegrass to jazz, the Philadelphia-based band delivers high-energy, stirring live performances that connect these age-old stories with emotions that continue to move and cheer contemporary audiences.

Mastery and spark on fiddle, percussion, mandolin, and driving guitar meet reflective yet passionate vocals and an affectionate spirit, and invest the tales behind the music with poignant vibrancy. RUNA will bring this vision to the Southwest and West Coast summer tour, a vision that, also, resonates on the group’s recent album (Somewhere Along the Road, 2012).

With a long history of collaborating with Irish and Irish-American heavyweights, from Clannad to Eileen Ivers, RUNA’s members hail from Dublin to Louisville, but share a lively, open vision of innovation and heartfelt engagement with ballads and reels, Gaelic poetry, and bold step dancing.

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A feisty witch (“Allison Cross”) and a bold girl, escaping from an abducting husband-wannabe’s clutches (“EppieMorrie”).A jilted lover who turns the tables on a murderous nobleman (“Mae Colven”) and a woman preparing for her own passing (“Amhrán Mhuighinse”). These nearly flesh-and-blood figures stand out in RUNA’s songs, portrayed vividly in Shannon Lambert-Ryan’s voice and in Fionán de Barra’s intense guitar.

Two of the core and founding members of the group, Lambert-Ryan (the singer, dancer, and actor from Philly raised on Celtic and British folk sounds)and de Barra (a native of Dublin),first crossed paths at a folk festival and then, again, while collaborating on a musical project. The two fell in love, finding they still longed to be in each other’s company, despite long days in the studio. They later joined forces with percussionist, Cheryl Prashker, to form RUNA in August 2008.

Both had diverse, tradition-bending pasts. de Barra went from busking on Dublin street corners and playing gritty clubs, to touring with Riverdance and acting for a decade as musical director for famed Irish traditional singer, Moya Brennan, and Clannad. Raised by a family committed to reviving and maintaining Irish language and culture, de Barra grew up surrounded by tradition, but was never a purist; his very instrument, the guitar, got him disqualified at traditional music competitions. Lambert-Ryan, with a background in classical vocal technique and stage and film acting, had nurtured a life-long love of Celtic roots music, thanks, in part, to Philly’s lively folk scene, where she first became enamored with step dancing as a young girl. As she explored her own creative path, she soon discovered that combining these loves would ultimately mold the approach for her engaging delivery of the songs.

Their shared, open-ended take on tradition erased any potential conflict over musical direction in RUNA. “My attitude towards traditional music, as someone who grew up with it in Dublin, is very relaxed,” explains de Barra. “I feel it has to be easygoing or it won’t be enjoyable.”

This attitude translates into a band with origins in Celtic roots hotspots around the Atlantic. Gathering a group of top players from across North America (multifaceted, worldly percussionist, Cheryl Prashker, of Canada& bluegrass and Celtic fiddle whiz kid, Maggie Estes, of Kentucky) and Ireland (Galway-native, dancer and multi-instrumentalist, David Curley), RUNA shows how blurred the lines between Old and New World scenes have become. “Transatlantic conflicts only happen when we just don’t know each other’s ways, when we insist there’s only one right approach,” de Barra notes. “That’s not what our music is about.”

For the band, this means embracing the way Celtic music has migrated, changed, and refracted across time and space. The free-wheeling, open-minded band manages to avoid any preciousness and eschews musical cliché, drawing on the members’ diverse experiences and dedicated musicianship to artfully incorporate elements from jazz to American roots music (Estes, for example, is fluent in bluegrass fiddling, with a sound that blends artfully with Curley’s mandolin). de Barra’s guitar often takes on a powerful drive that would sound at home in a rock band (“The Maid That Sold Her Barley”), and Prashker’s rich palette of percussion hints at her background in Middle Eastern and other world traditions. All of these, combined with rich harmonies, support the vibrant vocals of Lambert-Ryan to produce RUNA’s unique sound.

Yet RUNA never strays from the heart of the matter, and feels particularly strongly about the Irish language (de Barra is a native speaker). Lambert-Ryan works hard to master the meaning, intonation, and challenging but musical phonetics of Gaelic. The precision is all in service of the song, its sound, and its tale. “What makes a 400-year-old song still so important?” reflects Lambert-Ryan. “First and foremost it was written about human beings, and we are all similar. Our approach in RUNA is to find songs that are still powerful, still easy to relate to today.” Their audiences feel that power, whether the show is in a cozy club in a Philly neighborhood or on a major festival stage, and savor their fresh, contemporary spin on cherished traditions.