Heather Dale,
May Queen
(Amphisbaena, 2003)

When you listen to Heather Dale, your first impression will most likely be that this is someone who deserves to become a major artist. Based in Toronto, Canada, Dale has devoted the majority of her music to writing songs based on medieval history, primarily the legends of King Arthur.

Her fourth CD, May Queen, contains more of the excellent songwriting and beautiful melodies that made her The Trial of Lancelot so enjoyable. Dale describes her music as modern Celtic, and her music combines influences from traditional folk and Celtic music to modern artists like Sarah McLachlan.

Her passion for medieval history comes across in her brilliant storytelling abilities. The songs on May Queen are all based on different aspects of the Arthurian legends. As Dale points notes in the insert, these stories have survived over the years because they deal with emotions of love, death, heartbreak and betrayal, that we all can relate to today.

The CD opens with "As I Am," which is written as Arthur's marriage proposal to Guinevere. "The Lady of the Lake" is another beautiful love story between Merlin and Nimue. "Exile," with its hauntingly beautiful melody and cello accompaniment, describes how Lancelot would escape from his affair with Guinevere and retreat to the wilderness. One of the slightly more pop-oriented songs, "Prodigal Son," is told as the voice of Arthur's half sister, Morgan LaFay -- an example of sibling rivalry at its most extreme, she taunts her brother after tricking him into conceiving their son, Mordred. (Dale described this as one of the legends that you don't tell to your children.) She ventures into a jazzy realm on "War Between Brothers," which includes Canadian jazz artist Guido Basso on flugelhorn; its story describes battles between former friends and family and the ones who are left to pick up the pieces. "Three Queens" contains another hauntingly beautiful melody nicely accompanied by flute and uilleann pipes; its lyrics describe the three queens in Arthur's life: mother, wife and sister.

Two of the CD's highlights are the title track, written about finding true love and then seeing that person marry someone else, and the closing piece, a wonderful version of the tragic love story of the Cornish knight-bard and Irish princess "Tristan & Isolt." For this popular tale from the Middle Ages, Dale chose the version from Thomas of Britain's 12th-century manuscript. The story closes as they are buried side by side and the rosebushes that sprout from their graves entwine to make one as a symbol of eternal love.

Dale has assembled a talented group of musicians who nicely complement her beautiful voice. If you like beautiful melodies, excellent storytelling and the legends of King Arthur, May Queen is in every way a great CD.

- Rambles
written by Dave Townsend
published 6 December 2003

Buy it from Amazon.com.