David Stone & Friends,
The Journey
(self-produced, 2000)

This release by David Stone is a showcase of talent, chock full of lovely harmonies, stirring lyrics and exemplary instrumentals. The album's central theme is the forced emigration of settlers to Canada from Scotland and Ireland, and Stone does a wonderful job of capturing the sentiment of the period. In fact, many of the songs on this album sound as though they could very well have been written in the 1850s by one of those settlers.

Born and raised on Cape Breton Island, Canada, David Stone is a student of maritime history and Celtic heritage, and this background certainly shines through in his songwriting, as well as the feeling and depth with which he sings. Stone, who plays guitar and keyboards as well as providing vocals, is joined on this recording by Melanie Ross (piano, vocals, bodhran), Doug Sampson (lead electric and acoustic guitars) and Arnold Sampson (vocals, bass, guitars and keyboards), as well as a host of talented guest musicians.

The album begins with "Will Ye Come Away," a song of Scots Highlanders journeying to Canada during the clearances. This catchy tune (which I'm still having trouble getting out of my head!) features excellent harmonies, both in terms of vocals and instrumentation. Stone and Ross both have strong voices that blend well together, and their harmonies are found throughout the album.

"The Journey" is a rather typical "travellin' on the sea"-type of song, while "Fields of Canada" captures some of the fear and apprehension that the emigrants must have felt upon arrival in their new homes. Melanie Ross does justice with her voice to "Light On a Distant Shore," a memorable song with pleasing instrumentals.

With "The AntiChantey," Stone breaks from the emigration/seafaring mode of the album and brings us a delightful, tongue-in-cheek song about ... cheese? Yes indeed! It sounds just like your traditional old sailing tune, but in fact, the lyrics are all about the many different varieties of cheese, and why singing about cheese is better than singing about other stuff. A little wacky perhaps, but it has a good sound to it, and it's funny.

There are a couple of a capella style songs on the album, "When The Wind Blows" and "Miramichi Men," both of which are well done. Two instrumental tunes grace the album, "Pigeon On The Gate" -- which I liked, but wish it had been joined by a few more tunes, perhaps -- and "Walking The Captain," a set beginning with Unger's "Ashokan Farewell" and followed by two jigs.

"Home We Go Again" was the final track on the album and made a suitable finale. It had a catchy tune (of the sing-along-in-my-car variety) with the lovely harmonies so characteristic of the album, and wonderful instrumentals which worked well with the song. Another song on the album which deserves note is "The Promise." This is a haunting melody about the expulsion of Acadian settlers in Canada by the British. Melanie Ross and Arnold Sampson bring Stone's moving lyrics alive with their expressive voices, and force the listener to ponder the injustices of humanity.

Now, frankly, I'm not usually a big fan of sea shanties and songs about all the hardships borne by our ancestors -- I prefer an upbeat sort of tune -- so I was a little unsure about the prospects for this album when I picked it up. I have to say though, that the album was excellent, with a high quality of musicianship. David Stone is to be commended for his songwriting skills and the arrangements on this album. This recording contains a lot of great songs, and has earned its prestigious place in my travelling CD case, so that I may sing along to it and tap my feet as I drive along the roads of Cape Breton each day.

[ by Cheryl Turner ]