Heather Dale,
The Trial of Lancelot
(Amphisbaena, 1999)

When Heather Dale listed many of my favorite artists as her musical influences, I hoped I was in for a real treat. The Trial of Lancelot is in every way a wonderful CD. Based in Toronto Canada, Dale describes her music as "modern Celtic," inspired by legends from the Middle Ages and influenced by artists including Loreena McKennitt, Clannad, Sarah McLachlan and Steeleye Span. She received more inspiration after joining the Society for Creative Anachronisms, a worldwide organization which reenacts pre-1600 society.

The Trial of Lancelot contains nine songs based on the legends of King Arthur. The liner notes point out that these stories have survived because they capture emotions that we all deal with at some point in our lives.

The disc opens with "Lily Maid," which tells the story of a woman who was led to believe that Lancelot was in love with her. After she nursed him back to health after he was wounded in battle, he simply offered her money for her time and returned to Camelot. As she died in grief, her last wish was to have Lancelot pay for her funeral. "Miles to Go" tells the story of the choice that Guinevere faced after Arthur's death: her lover Lancelot or a new life with God. She chose the convent. "Culhwch & Olen" has a fun, Celtic-sounding melody; its story is based on the Welsh storytelling tradition, which has a fascination with the supernatural world. One of the most beautiful and saddest songs, "Tarnished Silver," portrays Lancelot's feelings after learning of Guinevere's death. While it gives him a sense of closure, it also leaves many questions unanswered. The CD closes with "Measure of a Man," which describes the vigil as Arthur's dying body was sent to Avalon. For added effect, the sound of a crackling fire can be heard as you can picture a body floating off into the distance.

Dale does a wonderful job of retelling these stories, combining thoughtful lyrics with absolutely beautiful melodies. Like Loreena McKennitt and a few other artists, she has a great ability to generate strong emotions with her music. Dale primarily plays keyboards, but includes other musicians on guitar, cello, Irish flute, tin whistle, drums and other percussion. The musicians give the CD a nicely produced, lush sound.

On The Trial of Lancelot, Dale combines a beautiful voice with strong songwriting talents. The result is a CD that simply could not get much better.

[ by Dave Townsend ]
Rambles: 9 March 2002

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