A review written for the Folk & Acoustic Music Exchange
by Lyle Skinner
Eileen McGann is recognized as one of Canada's premier folk singer/songwriters. With her fourth album, Heritage, Eileen has produced a recording that sees her returning to the music of her Celtic roots. Heritage is Eileen's first album consisting entirely of traditional songs from Ireland, Scotland, England and Canada that showcase her stirring soprano voice.
I first heard and met Eileen several years ago at the Winnipeg Folk Festival and was immediately attracted by the power and clarity of her voice. Two tracks that highlight this power are her acappella versions of the woman's shanty, Lowlands and that English folk song of love and sweet promises, Faithful Johnny.
If Eileen's voice hasn't caught your attention by the end of the opening track, Blackwaterside, a passionate Irish love song that Eileen learned on her most recent visit to Ireland, I am sure that she will have you hooked by the third track, the well-known traditional Scots song Peggy Gordon, a song that Eileen says is one of her mother's favourites.
Other highlights from Heritage, include the haunting sound of the uillean pipes blending with Eileen's voice on the 19th century Irish song that was translated from the Gaelic - My Grief On The Sea. If you like traditional beggin' songs, Eileen has brought together three well-known related pieces into a medley consisting of A Beggin' I Will Go/Tae The Beggin' I Will Go/The Little Beggarman. In Lord Franklin, Eileen recounts the bravery and tragedy of the saga of Sir John Franklin's fateful attempt to find a route through the Arctic Canada's Northwest Passage in the 1840's.
Other standout tracks on this very listenable album that Eileen has brought her own personal touch to, include traditional Celtic-flavoured songs that range from a tale of the ancient Celtic spring rite about The Beltane to two of my favourite Child ballads, Little Musgrave, and The Rolling Of The Stones, to the story of a Female Drummer who is looking for a career whereby she can join the soldiers on the battlefield.
As with her previous three albums, [Elements (1987), Turn It Around (1991), Journeys (1995)], Eileen has surrounded herself with a supporting cast of some of the best folk musicians and singers that Canada currently has to offer, including - Ben Grossman, David K., George Koller, Grit Laskin, Winston Murray, Loretto Reid, Garnet Rogers, Oliver Schroer, Cory Thompson, and David Woodhead, along with a special guest appearance by All-Britain uillean pipe champion, Steafan Hannigan.
If you enjoy hearing a fresh and contemporary interpretation of a fine selection of traditional Celtic material that has stood the test of time, Eileen McGann's latest recording, Heritage, is a CD that you will want to consider adding to your music collection. It is highly recommended.
The selections on Heritage include:
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Edited by David Schultz