Maggie Drennon,
Maggie Drennon
(Loose Goose, 2002)

Slip Maggie Drennon's self-titled CD into the stereo, and SixMileBridge fans may well rejoice to think that their beloved band is back from the grave. Well, not exactly. SixMileBridge, the rockin' uberband, is still defunct. But Maggie Drennon, the voice and soul of 6MB, has kept its spirit alive in her own eponymous band.

Drennon is backed by a tighter, stripped-down version of 6MB. Not only does she bring her own vocal and instrumental talents to the new lineup, she has brought along guitarist Anders Johansson (maintaining domestic harmony, since they're married) and added drummer Jared Pollack. (Pollack is listed as the third member of the band, although he's replaced on some tracks by drummers Matthew Williams and Tim Newton.) Also, 6MB cohorts Frances and Sean Cunningham appear on a couple of tracks, adding French horn, cittern and flute.

Several songs will be familiar from previous 6MB albums -- "North Country Fair," "The Boys of Barr na Sraide," "Brand New Legacy," Marching" and "Road to Glory." Some are revisited with new arrangements, solidifying for fans the connection between bands, while a few are reproduced here intact. But make no mistake, they are not the same entity with different monickers; the distinctions between bands become very quickly apparent.

SixMileBridge was a multi-pronged band, with Drennon sharing the spotlight with the bagpipes and other instruments that stressed the "Celtic folk" origins of what was, essentially, a rock band. Drennon has stripped away much of that facade, leaving behind a core band that rocks from hair to nails.

Sure, there are traditional songs in the mix and the band draws on traditional themes in its original pieces, but the sound is unadulterated rock, with Drennon's gorgeous vocals soaring and Johansson's guitars carrying the bulk of every arrangement. Drennon's voice in particular manages to dredge a great deal of emotion from the songs, especially those ("When Margaret Was Eleven," "Marching," "Dawning's Whisper") that cry for peace.

Will 6MB fans miss the bagpipe, the tin whistle, the mandolin in this new lineup? No doubt -- 6MB put out a powerful sound that should be missed. But this is a different ball of wax and should be judged on its own merits, not as a comparison to past glories. And there's no question, Maggie Drennon has put together a talented trio to continue her musical legacy.

My only complaint is the fiddle. Drennon is an accomplished fiddler, but the instrument gets little showcase here. While this CD is our first introduction to the new band, I hope that future recordings put Drennon's fiddle to better use!

[ by Tom Knapp ]
Rambles: 30 March 2002

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