The Barra MacNeils,
The Celtic Colours Sessions
(independent, 2012)

Have you ever been to Celtic Colours? You're missing a treat if you haven't.

Annually, some of the best musicians from Cape Breton, Nova Scotia, throw a week-long party -- the Celtic Colours International Festival -- and they invite a bunch of friends from nations and musical styles around the world. It's an experience not to be missed, in part because of the musical friendships and collaborations that form during that week of music.

In 2011, the Barra MacNeils -- a talented musical family from Sydney Mines -- were artists in residence for the festival. They closeted themselves in the studio with some of the guests that year, producing 10 tracks that blend voices and techniques in combinations that will likely never again be repeated.

The result is amazing.

The album features the Barras: Kyle MacNeil (vocals, guitar, violin, mandolin), Lucy MacNeil (vocals, bodhran, Celtic harp, fiddle, stepdancing), Sheumas MacNeil (keyboards, piano, bodhran, fiddle, bouzouki, vocals), Stewart MacNeil (vocals, accordion, tin whistle, flute, bouzouki, guitar, stepdancing), Boyd MacNeil (mandolin, fiddle, guitar, banjo, percussion, stepdancing) and Jamie "The Other Brother" Gatti (bass). Joining them on the various tracks are, in order of appearance, Ciaran and Fiona MacGillivray (from the Cape Breton band The Cottars), Old Man (Christopher) Luedecke, Bruce Molsky, Ron Hynes, Archie Fisher and James Keelaghan, Ronald Bourgeois, the Black Family (Shay, Michael, Mary and Frances), Catherine-Ann MacPhee, Matt Minglewood and Tim Edey.

Look them up if you don't know them, but let me assure you these are all singers and musicians at the top of their game. Coupled with the Barras, they've produced a musical experience you'll want to share.

Sure, I'd rather go to Celtic Colours myself. Barring that, this is a great taste of the kind of musical expression that grows from its creative melting pot.

And you can listen to it year-round.

[ visit the artist's website ]

music review by
Tom Knapp

24 January 2015

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