Hilary Bell,
Breaking All the Rules
(Yarrow, 2002)

Hilary Bell is one of Scotland's most popular singers and Breaking All the Rules is her first solo album. She has assembled an array of Scottish talent to back her efforts and this adds that extra dimension to the record.

The CD is classified as Celtic but the songs featured range over a very broad spectrum. We have Gershwin's "Summertime" alongside Bogle's "Leavin' the Land" and Billy Joel's "Lullabye" two tracks away from Robbie Burns' "Somebody." As you can imagine with such a diverse array of composers, the listener is going to love some tracks and perhaps be less than ecstatic about others. Overall, the excellent outweigh the latter.

The CD opens with "Torn Between Two Lovers," which many listeners will associate more with the pop charts but Bell does an excellent job. "When You Are Old" was written by Gretchen Peters and the simple production with vocals and guitar give this a winning sound. "Lullabye" is very well performed but the song betrays its title -- it is far from a lullaby.

On track 10, "Borderland," this CD really came into its own. Not taking anything from the singer or musicians, but it is Rob Fraser's narration that gives this track that extra edge. "Yarrow's Green Braes" is another great track that brings us more into the Celtic folk area. "Cannot Lay Me Down" is a new song to me and I really enjoyed Bell's interpretation. The final track is "Always You," based on the pipe tune "Highland Cathedral" and it is my favourite on this very enjoyable CD.

Listening to a new singer is an adventure. When that singer is a good as Bell and has the spirit of adventure to "break the rules" and tackle some very well known songs in a new way it is a a voyage of discovery. Hilary Bell does a great job on this 14-track album. My one minor quibble would have to be that I much prefer the tracks that she sings that octave or so lower than others.

[ by Nicky Rossiter ]
Rambles: 31 August 2002