Rita MacNeil,
Common Dream
(Luprock, 2002)

Rita MacNeil lends her powerhouse voice to gospel music on Common Dream, and when she sings, you believe!

MacNeil is backed by a terrific complement of musicians including Chris Corrigan (acoustic and electric guitars), Geoff Arsenault (drums and percussion), Bruce Dixon (electric bass), Ed Woodsworth (acoustic bass), Ray Legere (mandolin and fiddle), Kim Dunn (keyboards) and Doug Riley (piano on "You Never Know"). Dunn also contributes solo vocals on "Higher Power" and "I Shall Not Walk Alone" while Arsenault joins MacNeil on "Lucky Old Sun." Lucy MacNeil, Stewart MacNeil, Dutch Robinson, Yvonne Marshall and Jamie Foulds provide the spirited background vocals.

The songs range in style while retaining a gospel flavor. There's an upbeat pop sound on the title track "Common Dream" as well as "Speak to My Soul." Both are warm-hearted songs that invite you to sing along. The beloved standard "Peace in the Valley" provides a moment of serenity while "Higher Power," "You Never Know" and particularly "Said I Wasn't Gonna Tell Nobody" are rousing revival-style songs that will have you shouting "Hallelujah!" And did you ever think a gospel song could sound sultry? I didn't until I heard "Lucky Old Sun."

"Take Comfort" is MacNeil's tribute to Sept. 11 and it is a gorgeous song, restrained yet powerful, capturing the emotions of that day. The chorus begins "Now I no longer trust the sea when it's calm/The sky when it's blue or the heart of all man," evoking the sunny clear day that exploded into horror. In spite it all, she takes comfort in her faith and gains strength from it.

The gospel message is not intrusive, and MacNeil's enthusiasm is infectious. She writes that "Common Ground is a collection of songs that speak to the soul somehow" and with the range and versatility displayed in these beautifully textured arrangements, you're sure to find something that speaks to you.

- Rambles
written by Donna Scanlon
published 18 January 2003

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