Once upon a time, I attended a college that was founded by the Sisters of Mercy out of Carlow, Ireland. It was founded by women who were teachers, healers and musicians and were dedicated to furthering the education and imagination of young ladies and, eventually, young gentlemen. Every St. Patrick's Day, the school would suspend classes for a grand party with all the trimmings. Music, food and frivolity were the order of the day. Thus, Labyrinth would be an excellent addition to the college's special day. This CD is that good.
A labyrinth is a phenomenon that is a part of many cultures, and one that has layers of meaning. They are mysterious and frightening and provide many blind alleys before one's triumphant exit out of the darkness into the light. Who can forget the Minotaur on Minos and his chilling diet of young men and women? Thus, this CD is a lovely surprise, done with such obvious joy and wit that when one reaches journey's end it is with deep sadness for the music is such a pleasure to hear.
There are eight musicians on this CD, and they are: Aladair Fraser, who plays fiddle and viola; Eric Rigler, who plays uilleann pipes, great Highland bagpipes, Scottish smallpipes and low whistle; Chris Norman, who plays wooden flute and piccolo; Paul Machlis, who plays piano and keyboards; Mick Linden, who plays fretless bass; Peter Maund, who provides the percussion; and guest musicians Prairie Prince on drums and Robin Bullock on guitar and bouzouki. Clearly, all of the performers on Labyrinth are masters of the music and succeed in making a big, lush sound with a minimum of instruments.
One of the more interesting parts of the CD is the information inside the liner notes. It was fascinating to see the link of styles and beliefs prevalent between a number of societies and cultures. Some of the cultures represented here are the Grecian, Native American, Norse and Scottish. One might think that this CD is "only" Scottish. However, the fact that these musicians were able to seamlessly blend these variant cultures into one lovely group of songs is a strong indicator of our common humanity. If one knows any history of the ancient peoples, one knows that much of our culture is commonly held, and that the Vikings, Scots, Spaniards, Asians, Native Americans and others were and are so intermingled due to ships raiding other countries and islands that there was bound to be much intermingling of our music as well.
The various song titles are indicative of wit and imagination, just as the band's name, Skydance, is. Not only does it indicate an ability to dance across the sky, but it also demonstrates a love for the Isle of Skye. It is quite clear that the musicians love Skye and wish to share it with the rest of us. With songs like "The Spark," "Fite Fuaite," "The Iron Ring/The Boxwood Reel" "Into the Labyrinth" and the other songs, this CD is a gem. It will provide a light and a thread to lead one out of the darkness of the labyrinth and into the safety of the other world.