Celtic Tide,
(self-produced, 2000)

The future of Maritimes music is secure in the hands of young bands like the Chaisson family and Celtic Tide.

With its self-produced debut album, Kindle, Celtic Tide takes its place among the up and coming artists of a music-rich culture of Prince Edward Island. The band's grasp of musical traditions is strong, and the musicians certainly don't flinch from employing traditional techniques throughout the recording. Neither are they worried about imposing their own sense of style and injecting a healthy dose of modern musical ideals into their sound.

J.J. Chaisson is the obvious leader of the band, providing strong fiddle lines in the instrumentals and pop-influenced vocals in the songs. Besides J.J., Celtic Tide is Darla Chaisson on piano, Brent Chaisson on drums, Kurt Chaisson on acoustic and electric guitars and Elmer Deagle on mandolin. They're joined on several tracks by guest musicians Remi Arsenault (bass, guitar), Ed Woodsworth (bass, electric guitar), Lisa Gallant (bodhran) and Jamie Foulds (keyboard, backing vocals).

The album is packed with cleverly arrangement tune sets, including "Carter MacKenzie's," "Bear River Hillbillies," "Shimmers" and "The Silver Spear." Certain elements, such as J.J.'s fiddle and Darla's piano, are pure tradition; bass, drum and occasional electric guitar lines add a modern touch which make the music more accessible to younger fans without discouraging the older. The set "Squiggley's" matches fiddle with electric guitar and some remix scratch for a track which could easily keep a dance floor hopping. Likewise, "Live Wire" goes for an industrial edge of rough metal, and yet the fiddle continues to shine overtop a ponderous harmonic rock foundation.

"Frozen Fingers," conversely, casts the spotlight on some frenetic yet flawless fingerwork on a pair of acoustic guitars. Deagle shows his chops on the mandolin in the intricate "Clelmo."

Kindle is dominated by excellent instrumental sets, but the songs show Celtic Tide's promise as a vocal band, too. The musicians know how to hold back, playing with plenty of gusto but never overpowering the singer. And, while I prefer the instrumental tracks over the vocals, the songs here are nothing to disdain.

My favorite of the songs is "Blainie's Laughing Eyes" by Mark MacPhee, a song to seagulls from a man seeking the body of a dear friend lost at sea. J.J. begins slow and a cappella, but then Lisa Gallant's bodhran kicks up the tempo for the final two verses. A bit of mouth music later and the band joins in for a fast-paced finale. Overall, an excellent track in all respects. "Mountain Top" and "My Scottish Blood," both also by MacPhee, are more rockin' in their presentation; the latter in particular blends traditional and modern elements with style.

The album title suggests a fire that's just beginning. I hope the same can be said of the band. With a beginning this good, we can expect great things from them in the future.

[ by Tom Knapp ]

Buy it from Amazon.ca.