Connie Dover,
The Border of Heaven
(Taylor Park, 2000)

There is no shortage of good female artists in the realms of Celtic and folk music today. One artist who stands high on the list is Connie Dover, whose latest CD, The Border of Heaven, is her fourth release on her own Taylor Park label. As with her previous releases, the CD is produced by former Silly Wizard member Phil Cunningham, who gives the CD a lush, but fairly simple sound and whose keyboards, guitar and pennywhistle are prominently featured on the CD's 12 songs.

Dover's strength, along with her crystal clear, strong soprano voice, is her ability to find both familiar and less familiar Celtic and folk ballads and give then a fresh and timeless sound. The theme of The Border of Heaven is Celtic music on the American frontier. Dover, a Missouri native who studied at Oxford University and worked on a Wyoming ranch, provides a beautiful mixture of folk music from the both the British Isles and the American West -- with surprising Celtic influences.

Songs like "The River is Wide" and the American hymn "Wondrous Love" have beautiful melodies that are only enhanced by Dover's voice. The CD's opening track, "The Blessing (Oidhche Mhath Leibt)," is a Scottish song sung in Gaelic which opens with some beautiful a capella vocals. The songs' arrangements and instrumentation are often kept fairly simple in order to showcase Dover's passionate singing.

The CD's liner notes provide us with a good history of many of these songs, reminding us how early settlers carried their music with them and adapted them to their new surroundings, and provides evidence of Dover's strong passion for her music. While not well known as a songwriter, the CD contains two good original songs. "I am Going to the West" features lyrics that nicely portray feelings of people who have come to America and have begun a journey westward:

"Where waves of grass in oceans roll into infinity
I stand ready on the shore
To cross the inland sea
I am going to the west."

"Last Night By the River" is based on a Shoshone love poem set to a soothing haunting Irish sounding melody. With the sound of a cello and an eagle bone whistle, its lyrics feature some of the similar imagery of Native American and Irish love and nature songs. The CD is not without a few good uptempo songs, too -- "Sweet Betsy from Pike" is a fun arrangement conjuring up images of the frontier, and "The Streets of Laredo" has a nice twist, starting as a slow ballad and changing into a cowboy song featuring the vocals, guitar and fiddle of Skip Gorman.

Besides Dover, Cunningham and Gorman, the album includes performances by Roger Landes, who she frequently tours with, on bouzouki and guitar, Johnny Cunningham on fiddle, and John Hartford on banjo.

If you like Celtic music mainly for its jigs and reels, this CD might not be a good choice, but if you like Celtic and folk music for its strong ballads and wonderful melodies, be sure to pick this one up. Few people can perform them better than Connie Dover

[ by Dave Townsend ]

Buy The Border Of Heaven from