Leela Barbara Fraser,
aka Celtic Angel,
Celtic Hits
(independent, 2014)

My copy of Celtic Hits by Leela Barbara Fraser, a native of Antigonish, Nova Scotia who goes by the stage name of Celtic Angel, came with an unusual request: "I would be most sincerely appreciative if you could write me a small review, approx. 25-30 words," she wrote in an email. I can't remember ever before being assigned a word count by the artist being reviewed. Also, the disc itself came with a brief note referring to my "esteemed radio station." Of course, I don't have a radio station.


Still, I had high hopes for the album, solely because I have had exceptional luck with music from the Nova Scotia region, which boasts some of the finest Celtic performers on the market, whether playing purely traditional music or taking it in new directions. At the same time, I was wary, because the name "Celtic Angel" and the title "Celtic Hits" sound like gimmicks meant to snare tourists, rather than appeal to true fans of Irish, Scottish and Maritime culture. The selection of songs -- chestnuts including "Wild Mountain Thyme," "Danny Boy," "Scotland the Brave," "Skye Boat Song," "Amazing Grace" and "Loch Lomond" -- also had me worried, since Fraser obviously is treading well-worn paths with her choices.

My fears were justified, while my hopes were not. Part of the problem is that Fraser composed or arranged, performed and produced everything on this CD; perhaps it would have helped to have someone else looking over her shoulder and reining her in. The worst offenders here are "A Cradle Song" and "Baby Eyes," poems by Yeats and Shaw, respectively, and set to music by Fraser. Neither tune is memorable, and "Baby Eyes" is a little maddening.

Unfortunately, I have already far exceeded her request for a brief, 25-30 word review, so let me summarize more succinctly:

I don't like it. The album sounds like something you'd hear in a cheap Celtic knick-knack shop; Fraser's sopranos are quavery, and the treacly arrangements are overly synthesized.

There, 28 words. I'm sorry, Leela, if they're not the ones you wanted.

[ visit the artist's website ]

music review by
Tom Knapp

15 November 2014

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