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VARIOUS ARTISTS - Celtic Colours Live Vol 3 

VARIOUS ARTISTS - Celtic Colours Live Vol 3 
Private Label

Probably the best music festival in the world, Cape Breton's autumn bash attracts great performers every year. There's a long line of Celtic Colours compilation albums, and where previously many of the tracks were taken from existing recordings, recently they've been recorded live at the event. This has pros and cons, obviously, but there's no denying the spark and spontaneity in the music here. 2015 was a good year, it seems, with many high-profile visitors as well as the hordes of talented locals. This sampler has a nice balance of ten instrumental tracks and four songs - one Gaelic ballad sung by Kathleen MacInnes, the traditional Irish love song Mary And The Soldier from Open The Door For Three, a gentle sentimental ditty dazzlingly delivered by Chris Luedecke, and a thoroughly miserable piece of close-harmony social comment from the Barra MacNeils.

The quality of Canada's home-grown musicians is staggering, amply demonstrated here by the East Pointers quartet, Shelly Campbell, Kenneth MacKenzie, Mac Morin, the extensive MacNeil family and others. Strathspeys and reels, step-dancing, stride piano, you name it and the Cape Bretoners will play it. There's an understandable emphasis on fiddle music, boosted by imports Liz Doherty, Aidan O'Donnell and the fabulous String Sisters. Norway's megastar, Annbjørg Lien, plays her piece on nyckelharpa, I think - close enough. The sleeve notes are not much help on the details, I'm afraid. I'm pretty sure Paddy Keenan's lovely air, Sabrina, is played on low whistle, and I'm guessing Fred Morrison straps on the reel pipes for his set of strathspeys and reels. JP Cormier is, of course, a local fiddle maestro: here he dons his Stetson and picks up his guitar for a towering set of fingerpicked tunes. The final track is an eight-minute monster, strathspeys and reels again for the dancers, fiddles and piano keeping the music “close to the floor” in the best Cape Breton tradition.

It's not a patch on the full festival, of course, but this CD does provide an authentic taste of the talent which flocks to Cape Breton every year for Celtic Colours.

Alex Monaghan

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This album was reviewed in Issue 113 of The Living Tradition magazine.