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SUSAN GRACE BATES - Skorsa: The Riddle Of The Earth

SUSAN GRACE BATES - Skorsa: The Riddle Of The Earth
Private Label SGB1573

The debut album of this County Antrim born harpist and singer is a carefully crafted combination of arrangements of traditional and contemporary music and song from Scotland, Ireland and elsewhere with an easily accessible Celtic quality.

All is founded on her elegantly precise playing of the Irish clarsach, sometimes solo (using multi-tracking), other times in duo and wider group arrangements with the widely experienced talents of accompanists John McSherry (whistle), Dónal O’Connor (fiddle), Ross Martin (guitar), David Foley (bodhrán) and Kerry Bryson (cello). Pauline Scanlon provides some very pleasing harmonious support to Susan’s sweetly gentle, lightly accented, and appealing voice on the two Swedish traditional songs and charming little Estonian lullaby.

Book-ended by fuller ensemble arrangements of tune set Cavers (starting with a piece by Mike Vass) and Michael McGoldrick’s Farewell To Whalley Range, the intervening tracks involve traditional material and modern pieces (by Simon Thoumire, Kevin O’Neill and Ian Lowthian), often integrated with Susan’s original compositions, drawing, likewise, on her evident interests in Irish, Scottish and Scandinavian music and markedly inspired by a spirited feel for places.

Lightness and brightness pervade McSherry and O’Connor’s assured production. The harp is very cleanly and crisply represented, trebly and middle rich in its frequencies, with cello (in particular) offering some welcome warmth, depth and more ambient feel on some pieces. Relaxing and comfortable in the main, there are some satisfyingly catchy and rewardingly ingenious elements associated with the arrangements which, overall, are amply varied in their dynamic and rhythmic content.

Kevin T. Ward

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This album was reviewed in Issue 110 of The Living Tradition magazine.