The Barra MacNeils
Label: Self Released
Album: On The Bright Side
Tracks : 10
This is the first new music from the Cape Breton based Barra MacNeills that I have heard for a long time and is every bit as good as I had hoped for.
The opening track ‘Welcome to Boston’ crackles along at a pace before developing into an almost classical finish. The folk standard ‘Jug of Punch’ follows and it is beautifully sung. It also provides a perfect contrast with the next track, the modern and hard-hitting ‘Living the Dream’ with its tale of living beyond your means.
The popular Gaelic air ‘Ribhinn Donn’ is next and it is performed with style and an emotion fitting to its angst-ridden lyric. The subtle and understated musical backing is perfect and gives great depth to the track.
‘Mademoiselle Gallant’ starts of as a fiddle based waltz and takes you on a journey through something darker before a rousing and uplifting finish. This leads on to a rather upbeat version of Karine Polwart’s gorgeous and heart-rending song ‘Daisy’. I wasn’t sure if I liked this version at first but on second listen, I can appreciate it more.
We then come to the highlight of the album for me. The old Abba classic ‘The Way Old Friends Do’ is given the full Barra MacNeils vocal harmony treatment. It is simply gorgeous.
Two more contrasting songs follow with the ultra-modern ‘Clouds Under My Feet’ leading into the acappela of ‘The Underachiever’ showing the band’s vocal range to the full. The album ends with the fiddle-based toe-tapper ‘Saratoga’ that jogs along in fine style.
This album is just what you would expect from this talented group. A varied selection of tunes and songs, all performed skilfully and with passion. It is good to have the Barra MacNeills back.