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MAGGIE SANSONE - "A Traveller's Dream" - MMCD110
AL PETTEWAY - "A Caledon Wood" - MMCD217
BONNIE RIDEOUT - "Celtic Circles" - MMCD209

Maggie's Music is an independent American label set up initially to be a vehicle for the fine hammered dulcimer playing of the label's namesake Maggie Sansone. Fairly soon they started to produce albums for other artists, one of these was possibly the label's most recognized name, fiddle player Bonnie Rideout, and before too long the label had created its own distinctive sound. By now reaching many corners of the cultural marketplace from folk, Celtic, New Age to Early Music. Each new release is lovingly crafted to include in part elements of all these musical genres, and these three albums are a fitting testament to the label's legacy.

Bonnie Rideout's 1994 album Celtic Circles was my first taste of her fine fiddle playing, and to the company. This album sounds as fresh today as when it was first produced. 'Caledon Wood' is a CD packed with Celtic acoustic guitar work echoing the styles of Issac Guillory, and Pierre Bensusan, set against a silky smooth, almost ambient musical backdrop. Lovers of William Jackson's recent 'Celtic Experience' series will find much to enjoy here. However I think the stand out release of this batch has to go to Maggie herself, 'A Traveller's Dream' subtitled 'Celtic Explorations' is a stately album which reaches deep into the possibilities of contemporary 'early music', indeed by looking back she's discovered a sound which is almost futuristic. Though many of the pieces on this album wouldn't be out of place if played on Radio 3, there is a Celtic heart running through every thread of the music.

Independent labels such as Maggie's music are the only ones willing to take true commercial risks with Celtic music; we might not all like everything a label such as this produces. However by their very nature they hold a large part of the future of the music we love.

Keith Whitham

 

 

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This album was reviewed in Issue 35 of The Living Tradition magazine.