Cutting Edge
at Inverness Academy, Inverness, Cape Breton
(17 October 2008)

It's been nearly a year since players at the "Cutting Edge" kicked up the night air in the school gymnasium in Inverness. Then, it was fall and now it's the end of summer, but I can easily transport myself into the energy and flow of that concert as if it were yesterday. As I stood there that evening, in the dark of school gym, I didn't expect a heck of a lot more than a pretty good concert, certainly not the high vibes that took over the room.

Ashley MacIsaac and Mary Jane Lamond were in the lineup, and just to hear them would have made the night special, but we were introduced to some other very nifty talent that night. Take Gillian Boucher and her band. She has grown into a mature, slicing player who is confident and assured and the band just pumps it up. She can do mellow, too. Her sets take you travelling, leaving no time to catch your breath as you skip along through scenic musical vistas.

Haugaard & Hoirup from Denmark don't miss a step. Their light-hearted banter belies the great musical feats they performed. With fiddle and guitar they seem to add something extra to every tune. Their music was so alive and in turns, moody and invigorating.

Ashley, of course, was beyond good, and true to his gorgeous sense of humour, he wore a traditional suit to be ultimately cutting edge. Then he asked one of the finest of Cape Breton's piano accompanists to join him on stage. Joey Beaton came from the audience for "Bill Lamey's Delight" and a round of tunes that drew great applause. Ashley said, "I'm so far on the cutting edge that I went around and came back on the other side."

Ashley told the crowd he has an album coming out next year. A dual CD, one traditional and one pop. "If you like one and not the other," he said, "listen to one and use the other one as a coaster." Joey led the way on the last set and we swallowed up every note, and they received a standing O. I think an enthusiastic crowd added to the pleasures of the evening.

I was really curious about one of the next players. Angus Lyon was the first solo musician I reviewed for Rambles back in 2001, and I liked his music then. It appears he's still exploring music, "roaming the world and taking notes." He played with Ruaridh Campbell and they mixed up the sounds, light and easy, intense and hard. They rolled from a soft melting toffee to a cranky bus ride, to a roiling deep-sea storm. Great stuff.

Mary Jane brought out haunting Gaelic songs as she was backed by several players. I enjoy the commentary she delivers about the songs and there always seems to be an unrequited love song.

But I was swayed most by the unsung hero of the night, Liam O'Maonlai. Here is a world traveler, a world student of music who is able to find music in pieces and parts of the world that you may never have heard of. For his first song, he set a drone note. The audience carried it and he sang into it. He shared music from Timbuktu, Australia and Connemara. He was the magician of the night who whisked us away in time and made the floorboards thrum like a tuned instrument.

The only hitch -- but it wasn't one for me because I arrived a bit late -- was that the concert started late due to some sound issues. This remains one of my favourite Celtic Colours concerts and the audience response to all the acts proved it a perfect place to hold this show. The audience was ready. To give them credit, the student council of Inverness Academy sponsored the event and students worked the floor selling tickets and refreshments. It was a great community experience as well as a great concert.

review by
Virginia MacIsaac

3 October 2009

what's new