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Learig LM003

Yet another discovery for me! There’s so much talent coming out of Canada these days and Ontario’s Allison Lupton is further proof. She’s a fabulous singer with a wonderfully clear and expressive voice and she also just happens to be a flute player par excellence. Originally starting off her musical career in the band Killiecrankie, and subsequently a Canadian Traditional Music Awards nominee, she’s currently Musician-in-Residence at Ontario’s famous McDougall Cottage. The latter connection gives a strong clue to her musical sympathies, for the music of Scotland and Ireland is central to her repertoire. However, having said that, only two of the songs on Half My Heart (which turns out to be only Allison’s third CD in 14 years) are of traditional Scottish origin: The Lichtbob’s Lassie and Sally Greer. Five of the disc’s 13 tracks are either wholly or partly self-penned, and a further half-a-dozen are the creations of her fellow songsmiths (or, in the case of the two instrumental tracks, her contemporaries – bluegrasser Mark Schatz and homegrown Canadian tunesmiths Oliver Schroer and Brian Pickell).

There’s a melodious and thoroughly charming overall feel to the album, a sincerity and real joy in the music-making and a sense of relaxed accomplishment. Often very much in the McGarrigles mould, I thought, while Allison’s own singing often exhibits shades of Emmylou Harris or Alison Krauss. The vibrant bluegrass-country feel of opening track Bonnie And May is utterly irresistible, as is the sublime a cappella of closing number One More Day (one of three songs featuring backing vocals from The Lucky Harmony Sisters, aka Rosemary Phelan and Tannis Slimmon). Between these points, there are many gorgeous highlights, notably Craig Werth’s Where Oh Where My Rising Star (which features its author both in vocal duet with Allison and playing banjo), Gerry O’Beirne’s ballad The Isle Of Malachy (featuring Lori Gemmell on harp) and a delectable chuckling account of Bruce Cockburn’s Love Song. Elsewhere, Wooden Ships tells of a Montreal chapel with special significance for sailors, while Allison wrote Over The Ocean To Canada after a visit to the war brides exhibition at Halifax, NS.

Not only is the standard of songwriting on this CD first class, but so is the musicianship with which Allison surrounds herself. She enjoys exceptionally sympathetic contributions from – among others – long-term collaborator Ian Bell (guitar, banjo, concertinas), Andrew Collins (mandolin, fiddle), Shane Cook (fiddle) and Denis Rondeau (bass). I can sense that this truly lovely CD is going to become a regular fixture on my player over the coming months.

David Kidman

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This album was reviewed in Issue 105 of The Living Tradition magazine.