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MARY JANE LAMMOND "Bho Thir nan Craobh"
(From the Land of the Trees) Iona Records IRCD045

Given the current fad for jazzing everything up with Ugandan harps, Javanese drums and Scottish kitchen sinks finding a young singer who dispenses with such trifles and lets the voice do the work is as likely as a dry day in Paisley. Well the good folk of Paisley can put their washing out for dry days are surely coming. Canadian singer Mary Jane Lammond bucks the current trends and produces an album of stunning simplicity. Mary Jane uses her vocal chords to create seductive love songs, plaintiff laments, playful lullabies and spirited "waulking songs". To get away with bare vocals you need to have a good voice, Mary Jane doesn't have a good voice - she has a great voice. If your current listening includes Ishbel MacAskill, Cathy Ann MacPhee and Christine Primrose (and if it doesn't it flaming well should) then Mary Jane's CD will be right up your street. I can give no higher praise than to mention Mary's name among those others.

If the mark of a great singer is the ability to project the mood of a variety of songs then Mary Jane surely qualifies. She can break your heart with a harrowing lament "A Chuachag Nam beann" of a mother for her children and the lack of care they are receiving from their stepmother. She can relax every muscle in your body as she sings sweet and oh so gentle lullabies. She can raise your spirits and get your foot tapping with rousing waulking songs, and I suspect she could sing the telephone directory and still make it sound terrific.

Mary Jane has chosen her material well with most of then drawn from the Cape Breton area. The love song "Ho Ro'stoigh Leam Fhin Thu" written by Farquar Fraser of Cape Breton is particularly suited to Mary Jane's voice and with the gentlest of support from Ashley MacIssac on fiddle, Alan Dewar on Keyboards and Al Bennett on guitar the song is perhaps the highlight of the CD. Though my opinion on that changes with every listen. The support provided by Ashley Alan and Al, is always absolutely spot on. For the most part Mary Jane sings unaccompanied, but when the boys come in they are perfectly in tune with what Mary Jane is doing with the song.

This is a cracker of an album from a new talent on the Gaelic scene. The purity of the voice and the simplicity of the arrangements combine to make this a gem of an album that should be sought out by all those who appreciate that sometimes less is more (ah grasshopper!). We will be hearing far more of Mary Jane (although I suspect never again in such sparse an environment) in the years to come and I'm looking forward to every note.

Chris MacKenzie

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This album was reviewed in Issue 21 of The Living Tradition magazine.