Laura MacKenzie,
Evidence: Songs, Airs & Waltzes
(New Folk, 2003)

This CD is the most relaxing, soothing, calming album I have heard in a long time. The playing is superb, but the singing is not, though it is also not unpleasant. A couple of the songs are very repetitive, while the rest are beautiful and very pleasant to listen to. The music is so calming that I relaxed all the way into oblivion. It took me five tries to actually listen to the CD all the way through. There are very few albums that have that effect.

Making the effort to avoid oblivion was worth it though, as there is a lovely duet, "The Cuckoo," between MacKenzie and Daithi Sproule, who also plays guitar, as well as several beautiful instrumentals later on the recording.

The majority of the pieces are instrumental, showcasing MacKenzie's amazing command of a vast array of instruments. The playing and arrangements are very bright and cheery, in a calming way. They evoke images of a quiet, green forest with a waterfall. MacKenzie herself plays wooden flutes, whistles, concertina, Scottish smallpipes, border pipes, French cornemuse and gemshorn, as well as occasionally singing. Her skill on this many instruments is staggering. Most musicians could hope for her abilities on perhaps one or two of these.

Accompanying her are Sproule, Brian Miller and Dean Magraw, all on guitar on different tracks, Andrea Stern on Celtic harp, Dick Rees on accordions and John Wright on bass. Having such a choice of instruments, she has ensured that none are overused so as to become boring. Instead, each is put to its best use and enhances the music. Her voice, however, is rough and occasionally sounds out of key. Oddly, it sounds much more pleasant on the tracks sung in Gaelic.

Few tracks really stand out in my mind, aside from the first track, "The Silver Whistle," which is highly repetitive, hence irritating, and the aforementioned duet, which is the best sung piece on the album. Instead, the recording creates an overall impression that has stayed with me. It is of well-played, beautiful music. It is not simply pretty background music, as it is far too skilled for that. It is, however, very soothing. I realise I have said this repeatedly, but it is music that will make you desperate to close your eyes and let MacKenzie transport you at her will. It is much more complex and has much more depth than many of the "ambient" Celtic albums designed for relaxing. This is the perfect CD to listen to on a rainy day, curled up with a nice cup of tea. It is an album that will lift the blues, calm you and transport you to a sunny, green forest. What more could you possibly want?

- Rambles
written by Jean Emma Price
published 8 May 2004

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