Paddy Tutty,
In the Greenwood
(Prairie Druid, 1998)

Irish and British music isn't all pub songs, broken-hearted love ballads and jigs. Paddy Tutty, an Celtic-Canadian musician from Saskatchewan, proves the point with In the Greenwood, an album of fine musicality and stately grace.

Paddy has a minstrel's voice, singing stories with lyrical assurance. She's a fine musician as well, playing instruments as diverse as the fretted dulcimer, fiddle, anglo-concertina, guitar and harpsichord. The result is an album which belongs in any traditional music fan's collection.

"The Four Seasons" is a lovely song written by Brian Pearson to celebrate the annual cycle with a pagan reverence for nature. Paddy's dulcimer gives the song an appropriately rustic air, and she sings it like an invocation. She also adds a fiery fiddle to the tune, and is supported by Iam Tamblyn on zither, John Geggie on double bass and Kathy Armstrong on log drum and doumbek.

"The Gypsy Laddie" is an English traditional song about love (found or betrayed, depending whose perspective you take). Andy Daub's whistle and Paddy's concertina add a delicate undercurrent to the tune, which Paddy sings with a melancholy mien. She then switches gears for "Sui Sios fa mo Dhidean," a gorgeous Irish harp tune played as a baroque harpsichord solo.

"We Be Soldiers Three" adds the deep voice of Shelley Posen beneath Paddy's own. The English song is strengthened by Paddy's fiddles, Ian Tamblyn's harmonium and various percussion by Kathy Armstrong, then slides into a lively French dance tune, "Bourree Moureque." Then she sings a sparse version of "Knight William and the Shepherd's Daughter," an English tune about rape and retribution. "Burr Oak" is another lovely harpsichord solo, this one a Paddy original.

"The Maple's Lament," written by Laurie Lewis, is a touch disconcerting -- any song would be, starting with the line "When I was alive...." Sung from the tree's perspective, the lyrics bemoan its former life, despite its new incarnation as, apparently, a fiddle. The lament is performed with little instrumentation, ornamented by delicate chimes and bird song. "The Road to Heaven" is a nice ballad by Matthew Manera, but it suffers mostly by association; after several slow tunes, we're aching for something a bit faster than this.

Fortunately, Paddy livens things up a bit with another French dance, "La Fleur de Breyere." "William Glen" is a slow seafaring song about supernatural vengeance. Then for a change of pace, Paddy leads the a capella song "Thousands or More," which benefits from the addition of seven vocalists on the refrains. She next switches to the anglo-concertina for a solo version of the French pipe tune "Aure Francoise." The album concludes with "The Cuckoo," an Irish traditional song about lost love on which Andy Daub adds layers of the uilleann pipes and whistle.

In the Greenwood is a beautiful album. It drags a bit in places and would certainly profit from the addition of another peppy tune or two, but that shouldn't prevent anyone from seeking it out. You certainly won't be bored in the face of such excellent musicianship.

[ by Tom Knapp ]



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