(Greentrax, 2000)

A turn-of-the-century pop band and a plugged-in Celtic band must have turned corners too quickly, crashed and mingled. The result was Burach, a Scottish band with a pop-rock attitude and a Celtic soul.

Burach is fronted by Ali Cherry, a sweet-voiced singer who could easily take her place beside the likes of Julee Cruise and Gwen Stefani. The rest of the band is Sandy Brechin on accordion and backing vocals, Roy Waterson on bass guitar and backing vocals, Greg Borland on fiddle and backing vocals, Doug Anderson on electric and acoustic guitars, mandolin and banjo, and Eoghain Anderson on drums and percussion.

While the guitars, bass and percussion work to back up Cherry's pop sound, the accordion, fiddle, mandolin and banjo strive to infuse the music with a traditional flair. Incredibly, it works.

All but one of the album's eight songs are band originals. (The exception is "Heart of Gold" by Paul Risi.) Lyrically, the songs are no great shakes -- they're not bad, but the words don't stick in your head, either. But the tunes are good, Cherry's voice is great, and it's fun listening to the traditional touches scattered throughout.

The energetic biographical sketch, "The Life and Times of Johnny Hattersfield," is an immediate favorite; the story isn't entirely comprehensible, but it's fun. Risi's "Heart of Gold" is also a keeper, with the fine chorus line, "It's not your fault / I've got a heart of gold / That's just as hard and twice as cold." The song "Sweet Thing" is especially memorable because of the driving fiddle and accordion tune, "Fred the Fly," which Borland inserted between verses. An accordion pulse and fiddle harmony also adds much to "And Still There," and those instruments also liven up the cheerily optimistic "Keep On Shining."

Mixed with the songs are also four instrumental sets, springing from the band's own writing talent as well as from other, more traditional sources. It's here the Celtic side of the band takes the fore, while the pop aspect -- primarily manifested through the bass and drums, although the electric guitar makes its presence keenly felt in "Knot Quite Silverstone" -- adds extra funk and groove.

[ by Tom Knapp ]

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