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Mary Jane Lamond – Suas E!

maryjaneWhile not a native Cape Breton resident, this Canadian singer has spent most of her young life absorbing the local culture and the sounds of the Scots Gaelic language of the region, and now resides there full time. She has a crystalline voice, ethereal and yet not precious. This album is all traditional material, all sung in the old language. The accompaniment is anything but traditional, featuring lots of studio overdubs, synthesizers, and drum kits along with bagpipes, fiddles (including that of Ashley MacIsaac), and flutes. There is an easy comparison to Mouth Music and the myriad Enya-ites, but Lamond’s recording rises above most of the Celto-synth music so popular these days.

Her voice is right up front all the time, never buried in multiple layers or washes of reverb, always in sharp focus so the songs become the most important element. The production, while sometimes a bit overblown, is always looking for the music’s origins, with fine musicians contributing enough acoustic instrumentation to keep it solid and rooted. There is also one track by an older traditional singer, Margaret Mclean of Boisdale, Cape Breton, with Lamond providing a second voice to give you a serious taste of the real tradition. From the most pop cuts to the most austere, Lamond’s voice triumphs and the pop production behaves itself, offering a new look at the old songs without pretense or silliness.

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