Dan McKinnon,
Fields of Dreams & Glory
(Walking Shoes, 2005)

The fifth album in this artist's list of publications is a comfortable fit in the genre of folk ballads. This talent of writing modern songs imbued with a familiar traditional sound reminds me of another artist who does the same: Scotland's Karine Polwart, who sings and writes in the same fine storytelling tradition.

Dan MacKinnon, however, hails from Halifax, Nova Scotia, and though he's doing a lot of international traveling with his music, I think he's yet to be fully discovered by the Atlantic home crowd. His songs sounded so familiar and yet I couldn't find any locals around my area who recognized his name. This CD may go a long way to change that and only confirms MacKinnon's ongoing performance and songwriting abilities.

Four songs are covers by MacKinnon, but the rest are his own and they're so well folk-crafted I thought at first that I had heard these ages ago. Even though the man and his guitar deliver a traditional sound, there's a freshness to his songs like a brisk ocean breeze that soothes and refreshes.

The light-handed arrangement style suits the songs, and seems to be the inspiration of Paul Mills and the musicians who accompanied on the various tracks. Musicians Tom Leighton, Dennis Pendrith, Don Reed, Curly Boy Stubbs (Paul Mills) and Wendy Solomon accompany MacKinnon's full-bodied voice with a fine gentle touch.

A tribute song, "Kith & Kin" gives a nod to the young women who came to a new land after World War II full of hopes and dreams. It's a notable addition in 2006, the Year of the War Bride. "Many Miles to Go" gives a salute to the men in the Merchant Navy. Both songs cover a range of emotions and real-life events that ring true to the listener.

Though there's a melancholy tone to several songs, the beauty of them still rings out through MacKinnon's wonderful rich timbre. In "This Side of the Sod" and "Ballad of the Simple Sailor," a sea shanty by Jim Stewart, a humourous side of MacKinnon shows up. Though the songs cover several topics, all are well connected by the title, Fields of Dreams & Glory.

For sure, MacKinnon's new CD offers a selection of ballads with strong, flowing melodies and many stories told in original, poetic lyrics well-suited to the rhythm of the singer's voice. You can't go wrong by having a listen to this one if you like folk ballads and would like to enjoy a few new songs, plus a few old ones like "Rose of Allendale."

by Virginia MacIsaac
7 October 2006

[ visit the artist's website ]

Buy it from Amazon.com.