The BorderCollies,
The Road from Swannanoa
(self-produced, 2002)

My best test for the quality of music involves my toes. No tapping means I'll only listen if I have to. Minimal or infrequent tapping means I like it but I wouldn't buy the CD or go to a live show. Excessive tapping means not only will I be back for more, I'll probably travel out of state to see a show and I'll own every CD I can get my hands on. With the BorderCollies, I'm going to need a second job and it should probably be in a podiatrist's office.

Considered a contemporary Celtic band, they dance the fine line between traditional and contemporary so well there seems no reason to pigeonhole them in either category. In fact they may well stand alone or, at the very least, with few others. Based in Atlanta, Ga., the band formed in July 1999 and released their first CD, a live performance no less, in December 2000. Their second recording, released in June 2002, features five original pieces as well as a handful of traditional numbers arranged well and cleverly played.

The CD gets off to a roaring start with "Thunderhead Jig Set," which highlights fiddler Katherine Irwin Thomas. Thomas also provides vocals and is passing on her knowledge of her craft by teaching orchestra to public school students. Written by Michael Robbins and sung by Caeri Tomson, "Temple Bar" is a lively song that features Howard Williams on mandolin and is guaranteed to get you up and moving.

Robbins and Tomson are the founding members of the band. Robbins plays guitars, bass, bandurria, dobro and banjo, as well as being the songwriter and providing vocals. Tomson is the primary singer, but adds her skills on Irish pennywhistle and percussion to the mix. Williams sings and plays harmonica, bodhran and mandolin.

My favorite is "The Storm/Tam Lin," which begins like a gentle rain but gains energy as it goes, growing into a full-blown tempest before wearing itself out and finishing soft and gentle once again.

The band is joined on this recording by Zac Leger (flute, low whistle and uilleann pipes), Brenda Sutton (bodhran and paint-brushed bodhran) and Fred Williams (orchestration on "Cloghinne Winds").

- Rambles
written by Sheree Morrow
published 15 February 2003



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