Kelly's Dream,
Celtic Colours 2002
at Boularderie School in Ross Ferry,
Cape Breton, NS
(14 October 2002)

A hearty meal of haggis and venison, a fat but short-lived rainbow rising from the clouds over St. Ann's Harbour and a misty drive over the rapidly darkening Kelly's Mountain, overlooking Bras d'Or, put me in fine spirits for Kelly's Dream, one of the Monday night showcases at Celtic Colours.

Buddy MacDonald walked out, plugged in his guitar and kicked into "Kelly's Mountain" to start the show. MacDonald, who was both emcee and opening act for the evening, is a personable man who talks to a crowd like most folks talk to a neighbor -- a suitable attitude, since Kelly's Dream was a neighborhood party for Buddy, who lives close by -- and he instantly put everyone in the mood for the evening's music.

Buddy followed along with "We Remember You Well," a touching memorial; "The Retreat from Ross Ferry," a whimsical postcard from a crowded ride home from a local house party; and "The Summertime is Coming," a popular Scottish sing-along better known to many as "Wild Mountain Thyme" or "Will Ye Go Lassie Go." Buddy had no trouble filling the room with voices on that much-loved song.

Next, Buddy introduced Chicago fiddler Liz Carroll, who started her portion of the show with "The Battering Ram/The Lark in the Morning."

Although this is her first trip to Cape Breton, Liz already has a loyal following after her exceptional North River performance the night before. Her set here was equally good, and Liz scored extra points for performing an almost entirely different list of tunes as she demonstrated her now familiar chair wriggle.

Liz played a few solo medleys before bringing local keyboardist Tracey Dares out for a few fiddle and piano duets, with tunes ranging from "Lake Effect," "The Crest of the Wave" and "The Morning Dew" to "The Cliff Dwellers," "The Silver Spear" and "The Musical Priest."

After an intermission, Buddy treated the audience to his song "Play It Again" before introducing Irish superstar Sharon Shannon.

Unfortunately for people who attended Sharon's performance in Whycocomagh two nights earlier, her show Monday was nearly identical. There's no hardship in hearing a great show twice, but I do give credit to the musicians who realize that, on a small island like Cape Breton, they are likely to have repeat audience members and adjust their set lists accordingly.

Sharon, on accordion, fiddle and tin whistle, was again joined by her sister Mary Shannon on mandolin and banjo and Jim Murray on guitar. Kerry singer Pauline Scanlon joined her for four songs, too.

The bonus came at the end, first when Danu bodhranist Donachadh Gough came on stage to provide percussion on Sharon's closing number, "A Costa de Galacia." (Danu, a favorite performer at last year's festival, was not on the lineup this year. However, since they were touring in the vicinity, the band decided to drop by for the day.) Next, Liz Carroll came back up for more reels with the other musicians -- an excellent conclusion to a fine show.

- Rambles
written by Tom Knapp
published 2 November 2002