Katie McMahon,
(Swallowtail, 2001)

Katie McMahon has certainly used Riverdance as a stepping stone to a prominent solo career. Shine, her latest album, is a testament to her talents as a singer and musician.

The spotlight is, of course, on McMahon's exceptional voice, and she has chosen a varied program to demonstrate her abilities in that regard. The album begins with "Alas Madame," a song in French written in part by King Henry VIII.

Other songs include "O Row My Little Boat" and "Slievenamon," both traditional songs in Gaelic; "Shine," a lushly orchestrated song of prayer by Ciaran Farrell; "O'Donaghue's Mistress," which blends lyrics by Thomas Moore with harp music by Turlough O'Carolan; "Fire," McMahon's own composition matched to a 13th-century melody; "If Music Be the Food of Love," a 17th-century Henry Purcell adaptation of a passage from Shakespeare; and Brendan Graham's "Crucan na bPaiste," a Gaelic lament.

McMahon also sings "Danny Boy," a hackneyed song that should probably be sung when there's an overridingly good reason. In this case, her voice isn't enough of an excuse, and I'd rate this as a wasted track. It's the only one.

There are also a pair of instrumental tracks ("The Peacock's Feather" and "Katie's Kitchen"), but McMahon, an accomplished harper, doesn't monopolize the the sound. Her backing musicians get plenty of time in the forefront, including Laurie MacKenzie (whistle, flute, pipes, vocals), Todd Menton (bodhran, spoons, mandolin, vocals), Marc Anderson (percussion), Daithi Sproule (guitar), Tom Schaefer (fiddle, vocals) and more.

Shine is a delightful showcase for McMahon. The album, with its courtly grace and exquisite precision, is the latest pinnacle in her rising career.

[ by Tom Knapp ]
Rambles: 4 May 2002

Buy it from Amazon.com.