Ado Matheson,
Out on the Islands
(Eagle Owl, 2003)

Out on the Islands is the first CD by Ado Matheson, a Celtic singer-songwriter hailing from the Isle of Lewis in Scotland. For years, he has written and performed his own material. As his touring schedule is rather limited, this is most likely the first chance many prospective fans will have to listen to what he has to offer.

To quote the promo material on Ado's first CD, "the songs are a collection of vivid memories, dreams and reflections inspired by the powerful images and emotions of his homeland." The music tends to be very mellow, almost sad. Matheson has a nice voice and the melodies are very supporting for his range.

Most of the 13 selections are slow-paced. One of the few exceptions is the more upbeat song "The Harbor." Matheson sings about coming full circle. His life started in a harbor town and it is calling him back. You can tell how fond he is about the way he grew up; it almost makes folks nostalgic for their own childhood whether they grew up near the ocean or not.

There is an instrumental track on the CD called "Wings on the Water." The melody is led by the piano and backed up by a quiet electrical guitar. Like most of the tracks, the pace is tranquil. It is a pleasant way to end the CD before the hidden track begins. On the last selection, Matheson reinterprets the title track. I prefer this second version.

All the songs on Out on the Islands were written by Matheson. While he plays guitar and piano and handles lead vocals, he does get a little help to flesh out the sound. His son, Hans, provides backing vocals, percussion and violin. Mandy Meaden sings backing vocals on selected tracks. Nick Kacal is on double bass, Simon Lea on drums and last, but not least, Nick Turner on bass, again, for selected pieces.

I do like Out on the Islands as I think many fans of Celtic music would. However, with no offense intended toward Matheson, I admit that I do not find myself reaching for this CD very often. The music is very pretty and occasionally touching. I would definitely go see him perform live if our paths ever crossed. But the CD lacks any musical hooks to keep me coming back. Perhaps my Celtic collection is simply too large and any new Celtic music really has to shine to be singled out. Perhaps the mood is a little too somber for my taste. Do not get me wrong. I think this is a better than average CD in many respects. It simply is not my favorite cup of Celtic tea.

- Rambles
written by Wil Owen
published 17 January 2004

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