Lehto & Wright,
Ye Mariners All
(New Folk, 2000)

This multi-faceted album by Lehto and Wright mixes traditional Celtic songs and tunes, electric guitar, acoustic folk and an alternative rock-type sound. There are songs and tunes on this recording to appeal to a good range of listeners; unfortunately I have a feeling that just the opposite will happen, and the album will only appeal to a select few. The variance in styles on the album is great enough that there are likely few people who would enjoy the entire album, which may make them less likely to listen to its entirety. Having said this, I do think that the album has a number of strong points, and I liked the majority of it.

The band, hailing from Minneapolis, consists of Steve Lehto (electric, acoustic, 12-string, high string and harp guitars, lap steel, percussion and vocals) and John Wright (8-string and double bass, acoustic and harp guitars, bass pedals and vocals). Lehto and Wright are joined by the able Matt Jacobs on drums and various percussion.

I absolutely loved the first track on the album, a high-energy, electric version of "Four Drunken Maidens." The vocal harmonies are exquisite, especially during the a capella bits. Wright and Lehto's voices make a good combination, and the snappy guitar melodies add a great deal of energy to the song. The next track, "The Butcher Boy," slows down the pace a little bit. Wright is the lead vocalist, with an appealing voice and good range. I found that his voice tends to get lost a little in the instrumentals, though. This is true as well for "Skewbald," but he is better heard in Lehto and Wright's "The Mission Bells," which seems tailor-made for Wright's vocal talents.

I enjoyed the instrumental tracks on the album as well. "Jerry's Beaver Hat/The Eavesdropper/Con Casey's Jig" is a set of jigs featuring strong percussion and some excellent picking on the guitars. The mandolin blends well with the guitars. I particularly like the percussion in this set, as well as in "The One Legged Man/The Cock on the Wall." This set was written by Wright -- good, strong tunes and great sounding acoustic guitars. "The Lamentation of Owen Roe O'Neill/The Gander in the Pratie Hole" also features good energy and some wonderful guitar harmonies.

Some of the other songs on the album feature a rather unique blend of Celtic and electric that sound as though they had a heavy influence from "alternative" music. In "Harp/Pink Moon/Banish Misfortune," an alternative-sounding song is mixed within the framework of a traditional tune and Lehto's traditional-sounding "Harp." The vocal harmonies are good and I like the tunes, but I was a little ambivalent about the overall sound, and felt similarly about "The Drinking Gourd/Miss Brady." Track 7 is a good set of tunes, and its electric accompaniment style would not be out of place at a dance club -- I can imagine teens dressed up to the nines and throbbing to this one, with no idea that they're listening to traditional tunes!

The title track of the album, "Ye Mariners All," is a full 10 minutes long! It has some really interesting percussion bits, and an interesting mix of traditional and unconventional sounds, but I felt that it was ... well ... just too long, I suppose. Definitely not a sing-along-in-the-car kind of tune. The final track, "The Idle Road," follows, and although a great-sounding traditional tune, it needs a little more energy ... at least, considering that it follows a 10-minute track.

So, although I liked most of the tracks on the album for various reasons, I wouldn't be able to recommend it to a particular type of listener. I think that it would have to be someone who enjoyed both traditional and less conventional sounds. Lehto and Wright appeared to be unsure of what sort of result they really wanted to achieve with this album, or what taste they were trying to appeal to. I thought that the best result came from the traditional songs and tunes (both acoustic and electric), and would like to hear more from them in that genre.

[ by Cheryl Turner ]