Bonnie Rideout,
Celtic Circles
(Maggie's Music, 1994)

If you're already a fan of Bonnie Rideout, this album offers a banquet to be savored. If you're not familiar with her music, this is a succulent introduction.

The Virginia-based performer has built an international reputation and is a three-time U.S. National Scottish Fiddle champion. Known for her passionate bowing, she does not disappoint here.

Drawing on the Celtic traditional use of the circle as a symbolic element, the music on this album is divided into sections of the day -- dawn, noon, evening and night -- with each segment containing music appropriate to the time. You can smell the heather and taste the cold waters of the loch in this music, which ranges from exuberant joy to melancholy introspection.

As usual, her awesome talent is backed by a lineup of stellar musicians who accentuate the treat for the listener. These include gold medal piper Eric Rigler, Al Petteway on guitar and Maggie Sansone, founder of the Maggie's Music label, on hammered dulcimer. While Rideout's fiddle is central, the other instruments blend with it to create beautiful harmonies.

Dawn is introduced plaintively with three North Highland tunes and a pipe march, then goes out with a lively selection of jigs that will get your feet moving. Noon follows with a doleful lament, "On the Death of Sor Blanca Maria," which Rideout composed in memory of her husband's aunt who was a nun for the Sisters of Notre Dame in Honduras. The tempo picks up again with the beautiful air "Mac Dhomhnuill Mor Nan Eilean" and the Highland rant "Gillie Callum."

Evening begins with an air to Ossian played on the small pipes coupled with the fiddle, a waulking song and slow air. It concludes with a couple of reels. On the liner notes, Rideout explains that waulking is a process for the shrinking of tweed and the songs were sung by women doing this task as they sat, facing one another, kneading the cloth and passing it clockwise around the table until the fabric had sufficiently shrunk.

Night closes out the album with a mother's lament on the death of a child, another lament commemorating the Battle of Flodden Field, which took the life of King James IV, and a homage tune on Prince Charlie's farewell to Scotland following the defeat at Culloden on April 16, 1745. Tragic and historic as these pieces may be, they are also some beautiful music they should make you hunger for more.

- Rambles
written by John R. Lindermuth
published 8 January 2005

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