Lydia McCauley,
(Brimstone, 2004)

I fell in love with Lydia McCauley's voice when I first heard it on Sabbath Day's Journey. Now, she returns with ForeignLander, her fifth CD.

According to the liner notes, the inspiration for this CD comes from the traditional music of the Appalachian Mountains. McCauley and her family moved to this insular region -- where they were considered "foreign landers" -- when she was 16.

This region was partly settled by Irish and Scottish immigrants, so fans of Celtic-inspired music will recognize many of these songs (especially the near-ubiquitous "Barbara Allen"). The songs chosen for this CD come from the 17th to the 20th centuries. Instruments include piano, dulcimer, viola, recorders, flute, guitar and concertina.

Most of the songs are traditional, newly arranged by McCauley. The one original piece, "Swallow's Return," was written to entice the swallows to return to the area when they were late one year.

These songs are slow-tempoed, with lovely melodies sweetly sung. The accompaniments are simple and in no way overpower the singing. The instrumental pieces ("Swallow's Return," "Stella," "The River Trilogy," "Margaret's Waltz") are well-played -- the three separate tunes of "The River Trilogy," especially, flow well into one another -- and are a lovely complement to McCauley's singing.

by Laurie Thayer
11 February 2006

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