Heather Dale,
Call the Names
(Amphisbaena, 2001)

I love the idea behind Call the Names by Heather Dale. Those of you who enjoy Renaissance festivals or the SCA (Society of Creative Anachronisms) events will most likely be drawn to it as well. Heather's alter-ego within the SCA is Lady (or Mistress) Marian of Heatherdale, a fabled Bard of Ealdormere (pronounced EL-dore-MEER). Ealdormere is a Northern land whose people use the wolf as one of their symbols.

Call the Names consists of 20 songs describing the inhabitants of Ealdormere, as well as how the kingdom came to be and crowned its first king and queen. If you have seen the old 1980 cartoon movie Return of the King then you are familiar with the telling of a fantasy epic through song. While the tales of Ealdormere might not be as well known as those of Middle Earth, Lady Marian's music is definitely much more palatable than the '70s folk sound from the aforementioned movie. Plus, the words she sings invoke enough images that a cartoon about Ealdormere is not necessary. (But it would be cool.)

The two key songs, "The History of Ealdormere, Part I & II," open and close the CD with just under 10 minutes of storytelling that lay a base for the remaining selections. The air of these two is rather solemn, forcing the audience to take note and listen to the tale being told. The remaining songs focus individually on different segments of the population -- royalty, fighters, smiths, bards, servers, tradesmen and cooks. The style of the songs range from rather humorous ("Pierre & Marianne" and "King of All Trades") to the more serious pieces that touch the heart ("White Rose," "Light of the North" and "Call the Names").

I was surprised to find out from Lady Marian's website that she does not have any formal vocal training. Her voice is beautiful and is perfect for medieval music. She also knows her way around many instruments including keyboards, alto and soprano recorders, harp, bodhran drum, hammered dulcimer and percussion. She is joined on several songs by fellow bard Chris Evans, who contributes guitar, backing vocals and percussion. Although not quite up there with the likes of Loreena McKennitt and her Idling Porsches, Lady Marian and Chris are not far behind.

When not playing Lady Marian, Heather manages Amphisbaena Music, an independent record label based in Toronto, Canada. An amphisbaena is a two-headed dragon, which sounds like an appropriate symbol for a label that promotes the work of artists who dabble in the modern Celtic genre.

Just a few minutes shy of an hour, Call the Names is more than a simple modern Celtic CD. It has a story to tell. Ealdormere's tale is full of heroism, adventure, humor, blood, love, pride and courage. How does a kingdom come together and form an entity in its own right? It depends upon its people -- from royalty down to its peasants. Are you brave enough to heed the call of the wolf?

[ by Wil Owen ]
Rambles: 30 March 2002

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