Lydia McCauley,
Sabbath Day's Journey
(Brimstone Music, 1998)

Seattle-born Lydia McCauley spent her later teen years listening to Appalachian folk music, which led to an interest in its Celtic roots. She spent some time documenting the music she was hearing. She later had a chance to travel to the places where this music was born. The eventual result was Sabbath Day's Journey.

McCauley's striking voice and rich sound will produce inevitable comparisons to Loreena McKennitt (that was my own thought upon hearing the CD for the first time), although that comparison does not hold for all the tracks on the CD, especially "Apples on the Tree" and "Grace Day," which are perhaps more Appalachian-folk inspired than medieval or Celtic.

There is an instrumental track on the CD, "Buon Giorno, Buena Gente." which combines bouzouki, recorders and other instruments into a medieval-styled tune that left me wanting to dance. Although not completely instrumental, "O' Beautiful Earth" has a lovely instrumental ending. There is one Appalachian traditional tune on the CD, "Black is the Color." The rest of the tunes were written by McCauley.

Perhaps the best tracks on the CD are "Mother's Heart," a rather plaintive song about the strength of mothers, the aforementioned "Buon Giorno, Buena Gente" and "Assisi," a charming song about climbing Assisi on pilgrimage. The final track, "All Shall Be Well," inspired by the 14th-century mystic Julian of Norwich, with its simple lyric and accompaniment is likely to stick in your head, but that's not necessarily a bad thing.

A first CD from talented Lydia McCauley, Sabbath Day's Journey combines Celtic, Appalachian and medieval influences into a beautiful, lush sound that fans of Loreena McKennitt will enjoy. I know it will be staying in my CD player for a while.

[ by Laurie Thayer ]

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