Daily News Article

Ear on the east: Life experience brings character to songs
Storas (Turtlemusik/Fusion 3)
MacDonald, Sandy – The Daily News (Halifax)

It’s been 10 years since Mary Jane Lamond rocketed into the Celtic world as the hypnotic Gaelic voice behind Ashley MacIsaac’s unlikely pop hit Sleepy Maggie.

Three solid solo albums and scores of live concerts later, Lamond is one of the best known Gaelic singers in the world, putting beautiful contemporary arrangements to the ancient traditional songs of Cape Breton.

Lamond has just released Storas, her first collection of new studio material since 1999’s Làn Dùil.

“I was kind of stalled, wondering what else to do,” confesses the singer, over lunch at the Shoeshop. “But I love sharing the songs and working with these musicians.”

The Ontario-raised Cape Breton resident generally worked with studio musicians on her previous recordings. But this time she wanted her touring band front and centre, and she wanted arrangements that could be played live

“I always have to have a little philosophy before I start recording,” says Lamond. “Otherwise, it’s all too wide open. Where do you go (with the music), especially where I’m not writing the songs? There are thousands of songs to choose from, so you must have a path.”

Lamond says she chose to support her vocals mainly with acoustic guitars and simple percussion. The result is an intimate, pared-back CD that nicely frames the ancient Gaelic tunes – no electronic dance tracks or pushy electric guitars here.

“To compete in the Celtic world, you sometimes feel your music has to be foot- tomping,” she says.

She resisted that pressure this time around, letting the songs find their natural rhythms.

Lamond’s voice is pure and clear, infused with a stream of life experience that gives character to every song. Like the peat and the heather that gives the highland water it’s flavour.

Aside from her core band (Corrigan, fiddler Wendy MacIsaac, percussionist Geoff Arsenault and bassist Ed Wordsworth), Lamond brought in the Blue Engine String Quartet for three songs and the Cape Breton band Beolach for a tune.

All the songs are once again traditional Gaelic tunes, gathered in Cape Breton from older Gaelic singers or from written collections.

“Mostly I’m attracted by the melody of a song,” says Lamond, who fuelled her interest in her ancestral heritage while enrolled in the Celtic studies program at St. F.X. University in the late ’80s.

Lamond is unique in this country in recording all-Gaelic songs with a contemporary band. “It’s an homage to the tradition,” she explains.
Most of the 11-song album puts the focus on the songs and the music. And
that’s just fine with Lamond, who sees her work in Gaelic as bit of a
mission, exploring the rich body of songs that are still there for the

Lamond says she’s not been tempted to record in English.

“Maybe if I wrote songs, I’d be tempted. But I’m too lazy. I prefer to go visit people to get the songs. That’s better than struggling to write a song.”

© 2005 The Daily News (Halifax). All rights reserved.