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VARIOUS ARTISTS - Celtic Colours Live: Volume Four 

VARIOUS ARTISTS - Celtic Colours Live: Volume Four 
Private Label

A fourth live album from the fabulous Celtic Colours festival, this one was recorded in 2016 and features performers from all over Canada, Scotland and Ireland. Not that where they're from really matters: it's what they bring to Cape Breton in their music and, in many cases, what they take home with them from the rich traditions of Nova Scotia. Every track here was captured in a festival concert, and there's a great breadth of talent which the producers have attempted to balance: tunes and songs, pipes and fiddle, young and old, familiar faces and new talent.

Representing Quebec, the vocal powerhouse Le Vent Du Nord kicks off this collection. While Cape Breton's instrumental riches far outweigh its songs and singers, there are half a dozen vocal tracks here, mostly imported: the almost-country Gonna Get Good by The Once, the old-time classic John Brown's Dream by banjoman Joe Newberry to accompany April Verch's Ottawa Valley steps, a new song by Buddy MacDonald sung by Cyril MacPhee, a Dougie MacLean ballad delivered by the Dunkeld bard himself and, of course, a medley of magical mouth music from the Gaelic tradition.

Tunes by fiddler Andrea Beaton, pianist Ryan MacNeil and Cape Breton icon Dan R MacDonald are part of the nine-minute dance set by a special Unusual Suspects line-up. Liz Doherty, a Donegal fiddler who has spent a lot of time in Cape Breton, pairs up with fiddler Daniel Lapp from Canada's other coast for the beautiful Irish song air Ansacht Na nAnsacht. Irish American fiddler Liz Carroll performs a medley of her own compositions with Nova Scotia's Troy MacGillivray on piano. As well as stunning step-dance, Ontario fiddler April Verch rattles through Canadian and American old-time tunes. Scotland's Fin Moore, Sarah Hoy and Mike Vass join Andrea Beaton for some fine old pipe tunes. The final track is a big surprise: Slàinte Mhath, a prominent Cape Breton band around the turn of the century, is back with a pair of high-energy Irish reels from their 1998 debut album, performed by the same line-up almost 20 years later. That's tradition for you. 

Alex Monaghan

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This album was reviewed in Issue 119 of The Living Tradition magazine.