|Dimensions||21 × 15 × 1.0 cm|
CD Review by Chris Spencer
This album is sub-titled Ballads of Robbie Burns & Other Celtic Favourites.
And what an enjoyable album it is, I’m so enamoured that I have made enquiries how to obtain their other recordings.
Readers might note that this album was originally released in 2009, so there might even be more recordings available!
The band, consisting of 8 members on this recording, although it seems they perform with as few as 4 members, cover 5 Robbie Burns songs including, “A Man’s a Man”, “Ye Jacobites by Name”, “Parcel o’ Rogues”, “Ae Fond Kiss” and finish with “Auld Lang Syne”.
The Celtic favourites embrace “Caledonia”, “Women of Ireland”, “Mairi’s Wedding” and “Belfast Mill”.
Other tracks are, “Step it Out Mary” (written by Sean McCarthy), “Both Sides of the Tweed” (Dick Gaughan), “Dumbarton’s Drums”, “Spanish Lady” and “Bonnie Jess” (Gary Shearston).
The album kicks off with a strident version of “A Man’s a Man”, propelled by the male ‘choir’.
The band utilise vocal harmonies of both male and female, which keeps the listener engaged.
Thus, on the 2nd song, the female vocals of Jo Boyd, Tanya Caldwell, Naone Carrel, Ros Hales and Bronwyn Todd lead the rendition of the tragic “Step it Out Mary”.
The men, Mal Bennett, Graham Chalker, Frank Nizynski and Jim Roberts assist with the choruses.
This track is embellished with tin whistle performed by Tanya Caldwell.
Naturally the choir of women tackle “Dumbarton’s Drums” which highlights the flute playing of Caldwell, while the male choir sing about the “Spanish Lady” which features the banjo of Mal Bennett.
An un-named female solo vocalist sings “Ye Jacobites by Name” with its anti-war sentiments.
In “Caledonia”, the Dougie MacLean classic, the verse is sung by a female, but the choir joins in for the chorus.
A track, a bit out of kilter with the rest of the album, is the Thomas Spencer poem, “Bonnie Jess”.
Spencer, described as a bush ballad poet, wrote the words, while Gary Shearston put it to music on one of his early recordings.
Interestingly, “Women of Ireland” is performed as an instrumental, using the fiddle as the lead, neglecting the words of the original poem completely.
The notes do not indicate whether the fiddle is played by Bronwyn Todd or Mal Bennett.
The tempo is also restrained on “Ae Fond Kiss”, but livens up on “Mairi’s Wedding”, led by the banjo, whistle and fiddle.
I enjoyed the band’s version of “Belfast Mill” which has alternating male and female choirs on the verses.
The album finishes appropriately with a gentle undertaking of “Auld Lang Syne”.
The album was recorded by Ian Blake, who has captured the band and all its talents and arrangements well.
I preferred the band’s up tempo songs more, but fans of Burns might prefer the interpretations of his songs.
5 in stock (can be backordered)