Martyn Bennett,
Glen Lyon
(Foot Stompin', 2000)

Glen Lyon is an experience rather than a CD. It is classed as a song cycle centered on an area in central Scotland and it will invoke many moods in any listener who gives it attention. It is meant to be listed to as a unit and ideally this should be done on good equipment, loud in a dark room in order to allow yourself be transported to another land in another time.

All the tracks are listed in Gaelic with an English translation. I will use the English -- with apologies to Martyn Bennett.

"Young Man I'd Follow You" acts almost as a showcase for the perfection and diligence brought to this recording. As the notes declare, Bennett spent a lot of time making field recordings of nature for inclusion on the album. The introduction to this one features running water and bees, which give a true feeling of "being there." "Lament for John Macleod of Raasay" is introduced by a most evocative use of the pipes that will raise the hairs on your neck. "Indian Moccasin Song" has a pounding beat that, if heard as a single track, might irritate but here in the song cycle it fits exquisitely into the theme.

The album features the voice of Margaret Bennett, who comes from a tradition of singing on the Isle of Skye.

The CD is beautifully packaged with striking photography and design, which add greatly to the experience. There is also a booklet so neatly tucked away that I only found it after listening to the CD a few times. This again has some great pictures but it also provides background to the tracks. It provides nuggets of information such as the fact that on track 2 there is a sample of a 1920s threshing machine recorded in Quebec in 1976. We also learn that his sister composed the lament for John Macleod after he was drowned.

This CD is a "must have" for anyone who professes to enjoy good music. It is epic in its sweep and almost operatic in concept and the presentation would make it an excellent gift choice if you know anyone who appreciates good music, Celtic or otherwise.

[ by Nicky Rossiter ]
Rambles: 10 August 2002