Mat Dickson,
The Keeper's Log
(Beachcomber, 2003)

This is one of those CDs that arrives in extremely attractive packaging, for it features lovely paintings of Skerryvore Lighthouse, which lies just a few miles off the Inner Hebridean islands, and a marine chart depicting the sea perils around the isles of Tiree, Coll and Mull. The music is just over an hour of ambient, soft rock-focused Celtic chill, which makes for very easy and undemanding listening.

Mat Dickson is a trained guitarist and the music centers around his guitar compositions, which come across to the listener with a gentle lyricism. All the additional musical detail appears to have been created via the use of ambient electronic samples, including those recreating the sound of the sea breaking on the shoreline. I learned that Dickson actually hails from the south coast of England, having spent his childhood between England and France. My natural curiosity made me wonder what attracted Dickson to compose and record an album so heavily influenced by the Hebrides.

The answer was pretty clear -- his love of lighthouses! His lifelong interest in lighthouses and their keepers (beginning with his fascination for the Needles Lighthouse off the Isle of Wight) led him to record this and his previous album as a tribute to those who safeguard Britain's shores and those who sail her seas. The only problem with the music is that it's all a little too unadventurous for me -- I've become accustomed to extremely vibrant, full-on, live acoustic Celtic sets in recent years, and this is all a little too synthesised to me. An additional problem for me is the lack of tonal and rhythmic variety between the compositions. With alluring titles such as "Skerryvore Skies," "Iona Sunrise" and "Dubh Artach" (named after a lighthouse off the coast of Mull) I was hoping to get a much more authentic feel for the Inner Hebrides as I listened. A Scottish theme does indeed run through the music, though it always plays second fiddle to the electronic ambient sounds.

I feel these immensely lyrical tunes would sound so much more enjoyable, be positively energised even, if played on a full range of Celtic instruments, with far less reliance on electronica. It's a very enjoyable listen, nevertheless.

- Rambles
written by Debbie Koritsas
published 4 September 2004