Naomi wrote this review.
The members of Cantychiels — all active members of the Scottish folk music community — have apparently been playing together in various incarnations for several years, but this is the first chance that they’ve had, to record a CD as one group. This is actually one heckuva large group of very competent musicians, consisting of Andy Harrison on vocals and guitar; Rory Campbell on pipes and whistles; Marianne Campbell on the fiddle; Brian McFie on guitar; Dave Cantwell on percussion; Brian McAlpine on keyboards, guitars, and other instruments. Also included are Harry Sullivan on guitars; Gregor Lowrey on the accordion; Annie Grace on backing vocals; Anya Campbell on flute; and finally Nick Turner on something called a “slabmyc.” Not all of these players perform on each track, although McAlpine’s keyboarding is fairly ubiquitous.
The sound of the CD really does reflect this large cast of musicians, revealing a broad spectrum of styles and influences with forays into country and pop music. However, the overall feel of this recording is remarkably unified and thoroughly Scottish at its core, although the members of Cantychiels clearly have the knack for injecting a pleasant modern sensibility into their music. Fans of early ’80s Clannad will not be disappointed with this CD.
The CD begins with a very solid arrangement of modern Celtic music that sounds very much like it was taken from an early ’80s Clannad recording. With its keyboard and flute introduction and its accordion-based melody, “Still.fruit for though. still(reprise)” is easy-going, introspective, and quite beautiful.
Of course, no recording of Scottish traditional music is quite complete without a Robbie Burns song. And Cantychiels gives us a fresh version of that old sawhorse, “My love is live a red, red rose,” that is both peppy and good-timey. Bruce McAlpin gives a very pretty, bluesy keyboard solo midway through.
“The Cauldron” is a fast, syncopated jig (it could be a reel actually; Cantychiels are clearly having fun with off-beat rhythms here). This tune has that certain dark, Scottish feel which is most often felt in strathspeys.
“The Train” is thoroughly modern pop song, a nice breather after the freneticism of “The Cauldron.” This is followed by the Cajun-infused country sound of “6 ft. of snow.” Both of these songs provide a refreshing counterpoint to the very traditional sounds of the other tracks.
The next track, “Arlene’s Waltz,” is a meditative, gorgeous waltz. Following this introspective tune is a strathspey-and-reel set “Fireman sam/Chalet fever.” These mysterious, dark tunes features the fine piping of Rory Campbell. Although such things are rarely particularly noted, the backing keyboards of Brian McAlpine do a more-than-effective job in creating a modern backbone to these tunes.
“The Loch Tay Boat Song” is another traditional Scottish song arranged with a modern pop feel. The next track, a set of modern reels “Annag nic iain/Cheques in the fire,” has a more ensemble feel than the other tunes as various members of Cantychiels step up to the microphone, as it were, and get to solo.
The CD ends on an odd but not obstrusive selection: Buddy Holly’s classic song “Learning the Game,” here done with Scottish traditional sensibilities, of course. It’s a rather brooding, philosophical end to a beautiful and thoroughly satisfying spectrum of both modern and traditional Scottish music.