Rhythm of the Celts
(Scotdisc, 2008)

Brogue is a duo, Brigitte Rodrigues and David Scobie, with roots in Scotland and even stronger ties to Zimbabwe, Africa. This album, Rhythm of the Celts, purports to offer "traditional Scottish music from a world-music point of view."

The album notes further describe the offerings here as "Celtic melodies and lyrics ... embedded in a fusion of traditional African, Indian, Latin rhythmic ideas and guitar riffs with an overall energetic brush of a rock feel."

Personally, I'm not sure I'd go that far. Sure, there are rhythms at work here you won't find in your typical Scottish song, but little of the album says "world music" to my ear. It's basically a nice selection of traditional Scottish songs couched in fresh pop settings.

The two musicians were both pretty busy in the studio for this one. They sang, played all the instruments (Scobie: acoustic guitar, electric guitar, pennywhistle, harmonica, piano, bass guitar, bodhran, percussion, drum programming; and Rodrigues: piano, percussion, drum programming) and, according to the notes, did their own arranging, recording and producing, too.

The 16 tracks here are lively and hard to resist, and I'd say Brogue has a good handle on the style and made good choices in songs to adapt. As the band's name suggests, both musicians sing with a pleasant and distinctive Scots brogue.

Tracks include "Bonnie Dundee," "Birnie Boozle," "The Braes of Killiekrankie," "Mairi's Wedding," "The Battle of Sherramuir," "Will Ye No Come Back Again," "The Dowie Dens o' Yarrow," "The Barge o' Gorrie Crovan" and "The Castle o' Drumore."

Brogue followed this album up with two similar recordings, Girls & Strong Whisky and Celtic Beat, as well as Popscots, an album of dance medleys.

This album reminds me a lot of Light from a Distant Shore, featuring young New Zealand singer Hollie Smith and producer/instrumentalist Steve McDonald. Both recordings are heavy on the pop sound, and both had me enjoying the music a great deal more than the "pop" label would have me expect.

Music purists may bemoan these radio-friendly adaptations of traditional Scottish songs, but I expect Rhythm of the Celts could find a broad audience of people who enjoy a modern twist on old standards.

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music review by
Tom Knapp

12 March 2011

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