Review Archive

‘One’ from Natalie MacMaster & Donnell Leahy - a clear and evident symbiosis of souls

(March 30, 2015)

Spanning the sensations from joyful and effervescent to reflective and sober, the first collaborative album from Natalie MacMaster & Donnell Leahy is a charismatic blend of traditional and contemporary Celtic music driven by some sparkling fiddle playing. Despite playing together for years 
and being a married couple, ‘One’ is their first joint recording and it displays every facet of a duo that think and play as one … there are no seams, no visible joins, the music simply flows as one. Aside from one song the rest is instrumental, yet throughout, music and instruments vocalise in a unique way telling stories without recourse to words, such synergy comes not by accident, it comes through a clear and evident symbiosis of one - natalie macmaster & donnell leahysouls.

From the moment ‘One’ opens with the sparkling collection of tunes that make up ‘St Nick’s’ it’s an utterly infectious experience that continues through such delights as ‘The Whistler of Rosslea’ and the vibrant ‘Pastiche For Anne’, the highly appropriately named ‘The Chase’ brings its images to life in the same way the rock-tinged fiddle and distorted guitars inspire the frenetic energy of ‘Fiddler’s Despair’. There’s a solemn sorrow to the powerful lament ‘Hector The Hero’ written by Scottish fiddler James Scott Skinner to honour the tragic hero Major General Hector MacDonald and to Natalie singing the slow lullaby ‘Cagaran Gaolach’. The step-inducing ‘Wedding Day Jig’ with its piercing guitar riffs and the fiddle-frenzy of ‘Ellin Polka’ contrast with the slightly more sedate ‘Joyous Waltz’ - a title that describes it to perfection. And should you find the skirl of the pipes irresistible then ‘Tribute To Buddy’ dedicated to Natalie’s uncle Buddy Macmaster will inspire.

The power of ‘One’ comes through hearing two ‘masters of their art’ Donnell Leahy (fiddle) and Natalie MacMaster (fiddle) mixing heritage with innovation to deliver an exceptional album, along the way adding the talents of Mac Morin (piano) Mark Kelso (drums, percussion) Jamie Gatti (bass) Tim Edey (guitar, accordion) Rachael Aucoin (piano) Sabin Jaques (accordion) Elmer Ferrer (electric guitar) Betty Beaton (piano) Kinnon Beaton (fiddle) Brenda Stubbert (fiddle) Dawn Beaton (fiddle) and Kenneth MacKenzie (fiddle, Highland bagpipes). ‘One’ releases 28 April 2015 – their website is here: www.nataliemacmaster.com

Reviewer: Tim Carroll

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