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SUSAN MCKEOWN "Lowlands" Green Linnet GLCD 1205

Susan McKeown is a talented Dublin-born singer, accompanied here by a collection of splendid musicians playing instruments from every corner of the globe. Nearly all the songs are traditional, though the arrangements are often unconventional.

On "Lord Baker", the exploits of a Turkish lady are illustrated with the sound of a West African kora (a harp-lute). That's not any more unusual than singing "The Lowlands of Holland" backed by erhu (Chinese two stringed fiddle) and banjo, as she does later on. She also gives a middle-eastern flavour to "An Nighean Dubh". That these eccentric combinations work is due to the excellent musicianship of all concerned. The CD is full of "atmosphere"- wispy flutes and whistles, subtly shimmering synthesizers, elegant fiddles, exotic percussion, plus the woodsy touch of clarinet and bass clarinet. The arrangements are tasteful, though in one or two spots, her voice is overpowered. One song where McKeown's singing stands on its own is the powerful "Dark Horse on the Wind" by Liam Weldon. She made the right choice in not trivializing the potent lyrics with unnecessary embellishments. She also shines on the bittersweet "The Snows They Melt the Soonest". Her voice, a guitar and a fiddle interlude combine to produce a touching rendition. Look for this one in the "Celtic" section of your local shop.

E. Bradtke

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This album was reviewed in Issue 41 of The Living Tradition magazine.