various artists,
Celtic Mist
(Maggie's Music, 1998)

Celtic Mist draws from recordings of musicians on the Maggie's Music label to create a soothing collection of tunes that is sweet and smooth without cloying.

The artists represented are Karen Ashbrook (hammered dulcimer, pennywhistle and Irish wooden flute), Robin Bullock (guitar, cittern, mandolin and fiddle), Al Petteway (acoustic guitar), Sue Richards (Celtic harp), Bonnie Rideout (fiddle) and Maggie Sansone (hammered dulcimer). Ashbrook and Richards also team up with vocalist Connie McKenna to form the Ceoltoiri Celtic Ensemble. Guest musicians on various tracks include Carol Rose Dunne (piano), Charlie Pilzer (bass), Bobby Read (soprano sax, clarinet, alto flute, bass clarinet and percussion), Eric Rigler (uilleann pipes), David Scheim (piano) and Amy White (piano).

Although the CD describes its content as "quiet moods from ancient lands," the music is often sprightly as well as mellow. Overall, the selections are lovely and fit together well. Ashbrook begins the CD with Dougie MacLean's haunting and evocative "The Osprey," the pure tones of her flute creating a musical portrait of this soaring seabird. "Eirigh Suas A Stoiren (Rise Up, My Love) pairs Petteway's deep-toned guitar with uillean pipes to good effect.

"Skye Aire" is delicately played on Sansone's hammered dulcimer with Rideout joining in on fiddle. The tone is airy but substantial, grounded with bass and gently plucked guitar. "'S Truagh Nach 'eil Bodaich an Domhain/Mael Donaidh (Seal Songs)" starts out with Richards performing sweeping runs on her Celtic harp, followed by a dainty dancing duet between harp and Rideout's fiddle.

Other notable tracks include, but are not limited to, "Good Morning to Your Nightcap/Behind the Haystack" (Ashbrook), the stirring "Feuntuen an Aod (Fountain of the Coast)" (Bullock), "Laoidh Rebecca (Rebecca's Hymn)" (Rideout), and "Get Up Early," (Sansone), a cool crisp jig. The CD concludes with "Wild Mountain Thyme" on guitar (Petteway) and uillean pipes, and the wistful notes seem to hang in the air.

Celtic Mist is perfect for when you want to listen to music that is light, engaging and evocative and that calls up images in nature -- music that refreshes you rather than stirs you up. This CD proves that Celtic music doesn't necessarily need the tang of ale and the smoky air of a pub in order to have heart.

[ by Donna Scanlon ]

Maggie's Music is well-known for new age-style Celtic presentations. Maggie Sansone, the founder, is perhaps best known for her debut CD, Mist and Stone. On Celtic Mist, she has put together a compilation of artists from her label and tracks from their various CDs. The artists represented here are Maggie Sansone herself, Karen Ashbrook, Al Petteway, Sue Richards, Robin Bullock, Bonnie Rideout and the Ceoltoiri Celtic Ensemble with Connie McKenna. Their instruments include harp, fiddle, flute, guitar, cittern (bouzouki), whistle, hammered dulcimer, uillean pipes and piano.

There are traditional tunes such as "Wild Mountain Thyme," "Rise Up, My Love" and "Good Morning to Your Nightcap/Behind the Haystack." There are also newer compositions, such as Dougie MacLean's "The Osprey," played on Karen Ashbrook's flute, and "Sundog" by Al Petteway, who composed the piece in honor of the sundog (a rainbow on a sunny day) that appeared on his wedding day. There is a single piece from Brittany, "Feuntuen an Aod" (Fountain of the Coast) and an Irish jig, "Get Up Early."

The CD's subtitle is "Quiet Moods from Ancient Lands" and when they say "quiet moods," they aren't kidding. The music here is all very slow and very quiet -- and very boring. All the tunes, from the jig -- which is played at a tempo that seems to be lamenting getting up early -- to "Wild Mountain Thyme" have a certain sameness about them, despite all being played by different artists. They flow monotonously one into another with barely a break in style.

If you're used to the raucous arrangements of bands like Gaelic Storm or Brother (to name a couple of examples) or the traditional sounds of Tommy Makem or the Irish Rovers, Celtic Mist will be disappointing. If you're looking for something to help you drift off to sleep, however, it's perfect.

[ by Laurie Thayer ]

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