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MARGARET BENNETT  - Take The Road To Aberfeldy

MARGARET BENNETT  - Take The Road To Aberfeldy
Grace Note Publications GNPCD0001

“When it comes to singing,” says Margaret in her lovely, companionable booklet note, “the road to Aberfeldy takes on a special meaning for me”. This refers specifically back to her experiences of “singing together” with the “welcoming, enthusiastic, warm-hearted and versatile” Aberfeldy & District Gaelic Choir, whom she first encountered at the opening of Perth’s new concert hall in 2005.  Yet Margaret’s latest record is effectively a celebration of the glorious process of “singing together” with others, which has been a feature of every stage of her life: it’s a tapestry of songs shared with some of the people who’ve been special to her.  And a very special musical experience it proves for the listener too. 
Accompaniments are sensibly varied, with the aforementioned choir joining Margaret on five of the eleven tracks (even indulging in some triumphant tongue-twisting wordplay on Mary Mac!), and an altogether sparser backing for the remainder (Seylan Baxter’s cello and Cheyenne Brown’s clarsach on three, Ruaridh MacMillan’s fiddle on two, Stuart Peters’ border pipes on the delicious courtship song Bu Chaomh Leam Bhith Mireadh).  The disc opens with a delightful rendition of The Singing Bird (learned from a recording by Belfast’s McPeake family) which benefits from Heather Downie’s sensitive piano accompaniment.  Margaret’s singing of both Hi Horo’s Na Horo Eide (the famous, and beautiful, love song composed by Tiree bard John MacLean) and the poignant lament Tuireadh Iain Ruaidh is exemplary in its pace and phrasing, and clearly much inspired by her choir backing on the chorus. 
But the track which best sums up both Margaret’s brilliantly intuitive way with a song and her sheer joy at “singing together” and being inspired by a full chorus backing, is her totally heartfelt rendition of The Pressers, a song which she heard a 71-year-old Mary Brooksbank singing in 1968.  This is what it’s all about: tremendously moving, and truly “one of those moments when the whole place resonates with glorious, warm voices awash with harmonies”.  It sets the tear ducts a-flowing every time I hear it, and it’s worth the price of the disc on its own.  Margaret’s thoroughly warm personality glows through the booklet too, for which she’s provided some superbly informative background information on the songs themselves and how she discovered them.  Even more comprehensive notes, and full texts and translations, are available on Margaret’s website
David Kidman

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This album was reviewed in Issue 78 of The Living Tradition magazine.