Talitha MacKenzie,
Spiorad (Spirit)
(Shanachie, 1996)

Since receiving it for review, I have come to enjoy Talitha MacKenzie's CD Spiorad (or Spirit) quite a bit! The best way I can describe this music is traditional Gaelic meets the world. The vocals definitely showcase (what I am assuming is) Talitha's Scottish heritage. However, she has melded in percussion ranging from the Native American powwow drum to the Middle Eastern darabuka to the drums of Africa.

I was totally surprised to find out that Talitha is a native of New York! As if that wasn't surprise enough, she taught herself Gaelic as a child using a textbook and some old recordings. She really wanted to be able to perform traditional music. And to immerse herself a little further in the culture she loves, she moved to Scotland in 1987.

Talitha has been a member of several ensembles. The best known is Mouth Music, which received critical international acclaim about a decade ago. Spiorad is Talitha's third solo CD. According to her website, she is currently working on her fourth CD, Global Sequence.

Spiorad presents eleven selections in all. Not one of them is bad. But if I had to choose my favorite pieces, one would be "Fill Iu O," a short jig-like selection that is a great intro to the spirit of the CD. The English translations in the liner notes indicate that the song is about all the things the singer would be willing to do if only the lass he is singing to would be his. I love how "Fionnaghuala" starts out with a chant combined with heavy percussion. The vocals are Gaelic, but almost sound like they have a heavy Caribbean influence. Very interesting! "Hopa!" is an instrumental Bulgarian dance tune. This piece is modernized with the help of electronic instruments. The outcome is truly amazing. My only complaint is that it is too short at less than three minutes.

Several musicians back Talitha up on this CD, including Chris Birkett (backing vocals, vocal percussion, laud, acoustic and electric guitar, keyboard bass, keyboard flute, keyboard drone, bowed sitar, programmed percussion, marimba, accordion, kalimba, congas, shakers, tambourine, powwow toms, cow bell, triangle, drum kit, wail of desperation and a few other items not mentioned here), Bimbo Acock (saxophone), Nico Miranda (5- and 6-sting fretless bass guitar), Francois "Bubu" Boirie (electric violin and fiddle), James MacDonald Reid (kaval, gajda and whisper vox) and Gerlof Lenten (didjeridoo).

Talitha MacKenzie's Spiorad is an entertaining CD. The music is lively and fun to listen to. Don't let the fact that is was released in 1996 stop you from checking it out. While much of the music has a modern feel, the base is definitely timeless and Spiorad should have appeal for years to come. I, for one, am looking forward to hearing her fourth CD when it becomes available!

[ by Wil Owen ]
Rambles: 9 February 2002

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