The Guardian Reviews Seinn

Mary Jane Lamond is a gifted Gaelic singer with a voice that is hauntingly beautiful.

Wendy MacIsaac has long been regarded as one of Cape Breton’s finest fiddlers.

The two share a deep and abiding love for the traditional Celtic music of Cape Breton, and when they come together to play the music that has become such an integral part of who and what they are the results are invariably delightful.

Anyone who has had the opportunity to see MacIsaac and Lamond perform together could not help but be struck by the chemistry between them. It’s as if they were born to play together.

Such is the passion, the joy and at times the fun with which they infuse their music that I would find it difficult not to get caught up in the moment when they play together and the Celtic blood in my veins could be measured with an eye-dropper.

The magic that so often happens during live performances is hard to duplicate when you’re recording within the sterile confines of a studio, but Lamond and MacIsaac come pretty damn close on Seinn, their first full-fledged recording as a duo.

Recorded at studios in Cape Breton, Halifax, Scotland and Ireland, Seinn strikes a lovely balance between traditional and more contemporary Celtic music, pairing time-honoured classics with original contributions from MacIsaac, Allan MacDonald, Jeff MacDonald and Brian O hEadhra, Stuart MacNeil and others.

Great ripping fiddle tracks from MacIsaac, like Yellow Coat, which kicks off the album in grand style, and Angus Blaise vie for your attention with gorgeous Gaelic numbers from Lamond like Air A’ Ghille Tha Mo Rùn (It Is The Lad That I Love) and Tàladh Na Beinne Guirme (The Blue Mountain’s Lullaby).

Lamond and MacIsaac complement each other handsomely on the 12 tracks chosen for this set, something I suspect is due in part to the fact they’ve played together so many times over the course of so many years — that and the fact that both are such natural, instinctive performers.

Both are also extremely versatile, as comfortable with a pure traditional piece as they are with something with a more contemporary, cutting edge.

Lamond, who also plays accordion on the record, and MacIsaac, who plays fiddle, mandolin and piano, drew on the talents of many other fine players for these sessions.

Included in that number were, among others, MacIsaac’s cousin, Ashley, who put down the fiddle and sat down at the piano for this effort, guitarists Seph Peters, Brad Davidge and Peter Gillis, piano man Kim Dunn, cellist Kevin Fox and multi-instrumentalist Cathy Porter.

There were several special guests on vocals as well, including T with the Maggies, a Gaelic vocal quartet from County Donegal.

Together they’ve created something which is truly special.

An expert on libations once told me that a good single malt Scotch produces the same sensation as “an angel’s kiss on your cheek.”

There are moments on Seinn when Lamond and MacIsaac had the same effect on me.

by Doug Gallant