Mairi Rankin,
First Hand
(self-produced, 2001)

Mairi Rankin made a great first impression as one of two fiddlers in the young Cape Breton band Beolach. She made great second and third impressions during a solo performance at Celtic Colours 2001 and at an incredible after-hours session during the festival week.

I looked forward to seeing if those impressions could be maintained on Mairi's debut CD, First Hand. For this young Mabou fiddler, the answer is a resounding yes.

Mairi is fun and fresh, putting out a great collection of tunes with energy and enthusiasm. She also brings a great bunch of fellow Capers into the studio with her: fiddlers Kenneth Joseph MacDonald and Ian MacDougall, pianists Mac Morin and Howie MacDonald, guitarists Pat Gillis and Gordie Sampson, and snare drummer Matthew Foulds.

First Hand is like being at a Cape Breton session. One track, "Hey Johnny M," is a touching lament for John Morris Rankin -- Mairi's first recorded composition. The other cuts are lively arrangements, linking strathspeys, jigs and reels in a distinct island style. Two tracks were recorded live at Mabou's famous Red Shoe, a pub renowned for its jams, and the album captures the Red Shoe energy.

Mairi is making quite a splash, both as part of Beolach and on her own. First Hand is a great taste of her music -- and, I suspect, a hint of better things to come.

[ by Tom Knapp ]
Rambles: 17 November 2001