At the Heart of It All (Compass Records/Vertical Records VERTCD100, 2013)
Scottish band Capercaillie has been making some of the finest contemporary folk music from the British Isles for three decades. Capercaillie is celebrating its 30th year with an album titled At The Heart Of It All that demonstrates that the band is still at the top of the Scottish and international Celtic music scene.
Much of the material on At The Heart Of It All consists of traditional folk songs from The Hebrides islands in western Scotland that have been transformed into fabulous modern folk songs rooted in tradition. The album also includes original material penned by Donald Shaw, Michael McGoldrick, Charlie McKerron, Maurice Lennon, Marie Fielding, and A. Macneacail.
The current Capercaillie lineup on the album includes Karen Matheson (vocals), Donald Shaw (keyboards), Charlie McKerron (fiddle), Manus Lunny (guitar), Ewen Vernal (bass), and Michael McGoldrick (flute/pipes), all of whom are some of the best musicians in the Celtic scene. The list of guests is equally impressive: vocalists Julie Fowlis, Kathleen MacInnes, Darren MacLean, Sineag MacIntyre and Kris Drever (Lau). The instrumentalists include Irish banjo virtuoso Gerry O’Connor, masterful uilleann piper Jarlath Henderson, fiddler Aidan O’Rourke (also from Lau), percussionist James Mackintosh, and jazz saxophonist Tommy Smith.
The majority of At the Heart of It All contains excellent memorable songs with outstanding vocal and instrumental work. The weakest track is the opening piece where a smooth jazzy saxophone really doesn’t seem to fit with the vibrant Scottish feel.
It’s great to see Capercaillie back with such tremendous force. At The Heart of It All is undoubtedly one of the best Celtic albums of the year.
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