various artists,
A Leap in the Dark
(Zebo, 2007)

A Leap in the Dark is a CD designed to introduce some up-and-coming artists, along with a few established ones, by way of a compilation of Gaelic music -- both traditional and original. The six artists presented perform on a total of 17 tracks.

The highlight of the CD are those tracks on which Maggie Harrison shares her beautiful voice. As she sings in Gaelic, it is hard to believe that she only began studying the language in late 2004! There are three songs she performs a cappella, including "Ach a' Dhomhnaill 'Ic Sheumais," "Aodann Corra Bheinn" and "I Ho Ro 's na Hug oro Eile." I have no idea what she is singing about, but she draws me in like a moth to a flame.

Also worthy of mention is Fiona Cuthill, whose fiddle playing is quite superb. Her original composition "Waiting for the Dawn" is a mournful Celtic tune. She is backed on this piece by Stevie Lawrence on guitar and low whistle. Stevie also supports other artists on many other tracks. His other instruments include bouzouki and mandolin. Fiona's fiddle leads on additional pieces such as the traditional "Lindisfarne" and "Burnbrae."

My least favorite artist is Duncan McCrone, who sings and plays guitar. I think his guitar playing is fine. His voice actually isn't bad, either. I think he simply lost me with his choice of songs -- "A Leap in the Dark/Beyond the River," "The Surf & the Silver Fishes," but most particularly "The Moon." The first is perhaps the best of the three, but lasts a little too long. "The Moon" is attributed to Robert Louis Stevenson. I was not overly fond of the poem before it was made in to a song. Perhaps you would get more mileage out of this track.

The last two musicians found on A Leap in the Dark are singer Wendy Weatherby and singer/guitarist Susan McCamley. Wendy sings a few tracks without instrumental backup, but she cannot touch Maggie Harrison's vocal talents. Susan's vocals are similarly weak when compared to Maggie. She has the strongest accent of the group as well. Like Duncan, Wendy and Susan are not bad with their craft. There is simply some talent that easily outshines them on this CD.

A Leap in the Dark is a decent Celtic collection. The quality of the tracks ranges from mediocre to excellent. If you like a little variation while listening to music or you aren't familiar with any of these artists, this CD might be worth the purchase. Now that I've heard A Leap in the Dark, however, my money would be looking for more by Maggie Harrison and Fiona Cuthill.

review by
Wil Owen

27 October 2007

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