Marc Gunn,
Soul of a Harper
(Mage, 2004)

This CD should probably be called Soul of an Autoharper. Most people would expect to hear either classic or Celtic harp, and the CD cover, which has a picture of Marc Gunn and the tuning keys of his instrument, does not make this clear.

The best tracks are the first and last songs and the instrumentals, all written by Gunn. "The Bridge" is a heartfelt song about reconnecting with a lover, and Gunn's rich voice works well for the lovely "Buttercup's Lament," inspired by The Princess Bride.

The three instrumentals are simply played (I don't know if there is such a thing as a virtuoso autoharpist, anyway), but these stately, medieval-sounding melodies get a light, airy touch by the autoharp. They evoke a feeling of mystery and the romantic Celtic spirit. Flowery titles like "Kyara Elven Mistress of Whispers" fit these tunes well.

Gunn delivers a lively version of Robert Burns' "Killiecrankie," an adequate one of the traditional "Lanigan's Ball" and a moving version of Burns' "My Love is a Red, Red Rose." The standard "The Parting Glass," done here a cappella, has been heard too often to be enjoyable, particularly when sung in Gunn's dirge-like fashion.

Gunn's attempts at humor fall flat, as in "The Leprechaun" ("There's a leprechaun in my head/I wish that I were dead."). When Gunn changes his voice to indicate the sound of the leprechaun taunting him, you can't help but think that the wee bit o' a lad has a point, especially since the song places him in a bowl of Lucky Charms cereal.

"The Barrel Song" is the retelling of an old joke in ballad form, and "Middle Earth Bragging Song" namedrops from you-know-where. Of course, everyone has a different opinion about humor.

Gunn is a member of Renaissance Festival super-band Brobdingnagian Bards. The pleasant music on this CD would likely be even more enjoyable live in Ye Olde Shire.

- Rambles
written by Dave Howell
published 26 February 2005

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