Mary Jane Lamond
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Mary Jane Lamond

Cape Breton, Nova Scotia, Canada | INDIE

Cape Breton, Nova Scotia, Canada | INDIE
Solo World Celtic

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MARY LANE LAMOND
STORAS (four stars)
Storas (Turtlemusik/Fusion 3)

By Sandy MacDonald

It’s been 10 years since Mary Jane Lamond rocketed into the Celtic world as the hypnotic Gaelic voice behind Ashley MacIsaac’s unlikely pop hit Sleepy Maggie. Three solid solo albums and scores of live concerts later, Lamond is one of the best known Gaelic singers in the world, putting beautiful contemporary arrangements to the ancient traditional songs of Cape Breton.

Lamond has just released Storas, her first collection of new studio material since 1999’s Làn Dùil. “I was kind of stalled, wondering what else to do,” confesses the singer, over lunch at the Shoeshop. “But I love sharing the songs and working with these musicians.” The Ontario-raised Cape Breton resident generally worked with studio muscians on her previous recordings. But this time she wanted her touring band front and centre, and she wanted arrangements that could be played live onstage.

“I always have to have a little philosophy before I start recording,” says Lamond. “Otherwise, it’s all too wide open. Where do you go (with the music), especially where I’m not writing the songs? There are thousands of songs to choose from, so you must have a path.” Lamond says she chose to support her vocals mainly with acoustic guitars and simple percussion. The result is an intimate, pared-back CD that nicely frames the ancient Gaelic tunes — no electronic dance tracks or pushy electric guitars here. “To compete in the Celtic world, you sometimes feel your music has to be foot-stomping,” she says. She resisted that pressure this time around, letting the songs find their natural rhythms.

Lamond’s voice is pure and clear, enfused with a stream of life experience that gives character to every song. Like the peat and the heather that gives the highland water it’s flavour. Aside from her core band (Corrigan, fiddler Wendy MacIsaac, percussionist Geoff Arsenault and bassist Ed Woodsworth), Lamond brought in the Blue Engine String Quartet for three songs and the Cape Breton band Beolach for a tune. All the songs are once again traditional Gaelic tunes, gathered in Cape Breton from older Gaelic singers or from written collections.

“Mostly I’m attracted by the melody of a song,” says Lamond, who fuelled her interest in her ancestral heritage while enrolled in the Celtic studies program at St. F.X. University in the late ’80s. Lamond is unique in this country in recording all Gaelic songs with a contemporary band. “It’s an homage to the tradition,” she explains. Most of the 11-song album puts the focus on the songs and the music. And that’s just fine with Lamond, who sees her work in Gaelic as bit of a mission, exploring the rich body of songs that are still there for the picking. Lamond says she’s not been tempted to record in English. “Maybe if I wrote songs, I’d be tempted. But I’m too lazy. I prefer to go visit people to get the songs. That’s better than struggling to write a song.”

- The Daily News


Mary Jane Lamond - Storas (Fusion III)

Written by Bob Mersereau

Lamond remains the most innovative and exciting Celtic artist. She continues to fuse the ancient language and its beats with a modern interpretation that is all her own. The group vocals and rhythms reflect the origins of the songs, found in the daily rituals of women's work. Then, Lamond adds just that bit of modern influence to make these tunes alive in this day. - New Brunswick Reader


Mary Jane Lamond has a voice that would lend itself to the pop world. Instead she wraps traditional Gaelic Songs in contemporary treatments, a veritable postmodern pastiche. Lamond's innovative updates of waulking songs are evocative of Talitha MacKenzie projects, but she throws a few curves entirely of her own. For instance, the often-preformed love song "O Nighean Donn nan Gobhar" reemerges as a dreamy jazz ballad and is followed by another love song, "Mo Nighean Donn as Bbidhche" whose edgy fiddle and driving percussion--courtesy of Wendy MacIssac and Geoff Arsenault, respectively--would be at home in a dance club. Arsenault is a master of cross rhythms which infuse numerous tracks with transformative verve. "Gur e mo run an Domhnallach," for example, is far from a traditional Gaelic call-and-response song; Arsenault's percussion and Chris Corrigan's funky guitar work breathe new life into what would otherwise be a folkloric museum piece. - Sing Out! The Folk Song Magazine


“In every culture there are those who preserve the language, song and traditions. Mary Jane Lamond is one of those people. This is evident in her most recent CD,
Storas (Gaelic meaning “a treasure”). This is exactly what our traditions are...they
are our treasures.” - Celtic Connections Magazine


“Lamond’s interpretations are conscientious and articulate, giving each song its most lucid and truest expression. The arrangements are traditional and played on acoustic instruments, recorded with great attention to detail that result in an
intimate mood.” - Dirty Linen


“Storas flows with centuries-old tunes brought to life by Lamond’s soaring acoustic band and her masterful weaving of understood emotion layered through sparkling
nuances. Lamond glides from milling songs to laments to jaunty dance numbers…all retain a glimmer of melancholy, resonating long after they’re over.”
- Illinois Entertainer


“Lamond’s use of modern instrumentation and arrangements provides a beautiful
framework for these treasures, but it is her vocal performance and delivery that makes these selections truly come aive. “
- MusicTrax


“Singer Mary Jane Lamond arranges the traditional Gaelic songs of Cape Breton with flair and reverence. …it’s the most eclectically arranged album Lamond has made to date and every bit as appealing as her glorious, groundbreaking Làn
Dùil…”
- Penguin Eggs


“There’s life and emotion in all of these songs – and the consistently tasteful arrangements ensure satisfying shifts in both temp and mood. Instrumentally sparkling, the recording captures a rich, traditional acoustic sound.”
- The Living Tradition


“Lamond’s haunting precious vocals, the focal point from start to finish.”
- PopMatters


Discography

(2012) SEINN with Mary Jane Lamond and Wendy MacIsaac

(2005) Storas produced by Philip Strong.
Distributed in the United States by Trade Root Music

(2001) Òrain Ghàidhlig Gaelic Songs of Cape Breton produced by Mary Jane Lamond

(1999) Làn Dùil produced by Philip Strong

(1997) Suas e! produced by Philip Strong & Laurel MacDonald

(1995) Bho Thir Nan Craobh From the Land of the Trees produced by Al Bennett

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Bio

Mary Jane Lamond is a sharer of songs, stories and spirit. This sharing has garnered Mary Jane numerous JUNO and East Coast Music award nominations, critical acclaim, and a worldwide audience.

Her latest recording, SEINN, is released on September 18, 2012. It reflects the great love and respect that Mary Jane and Wendy have for Nova Scotia tradition, and for each other. The record achieves a delicate balance between the musical sensibilities of two artists, showcasing traditional and original compositions among the melancholy of Gaelic song and the joy of fiddle tunes. Some of the material was learned from the recordings of older Cape Breton singers and fiddlers, some songs were chosen from existing repertoires, and some were written specifically for this project. The record fuses Roots arrangements with a traditional presentation, capturing the enjoyment and fun that Mary Jane and Wendy have together on and off the stage.

This is a powerful collaboration borne of a long-time friendship and a shared love of Celtic music. Whether its the mesmerizing Gaelic vocals of Mary Jane, or the superb and true musicianship of Wendy on the fiddle, these ladies have been making their mark with traditional audiences worldwide for over two decades. Mary Jane and Wendy have both been recognized internationally for their solo music careers, and Wendy has been Mary Janes steadfast comrade in the presentation of her music for many years. It seems only natural that these two impressive talents now come together to create a true musical partnership, which will combine their musical sensibilities, their strong Celtic roots, and their colourful personalities.

Mary Janes latest solo recording Stras (Gaelic meaning a treasure), is a beautiful interpretation of some of the Scottish Gaelic songs that have become part of Nova Scotias Gaelic tradition. Her use of modern instrumentation and arrangements provides a respectful and beautiful framework for these Gaelic treasures but it is Mary Janes spell binding vocal performance and heartfelt delivery that makes these selections truly come alive for the listener.

On the North Shore of Cape Breton Island, the rich heritage of the regions Scottish settlers was kept alive through song. It was in Nova Scotia, visiting her grandparents throughout her youth, that Mary Jane Lamond fell in love with Scottish Gaelic traditions and song. While enrolled in Saint Francis Xavier Universitys Celtic Studies programme, Lamond released her first album, Bho Thir Nan Craobh, a collection of traditional material that introduced her unique singing voice and a then unknown fiddler named Ashley MacIsaac. The two talented Maritimers then collaborated on the award-winning radio smash Sleepy Maggie.

Mary Jane Lamond took time-honoured Gaelic songs to the next level on Suas e!, which combined classic texts with contemporary pop sounds. The Globe & Mail praised it for its refreshing balance between modern and ancient, and the album earned several Juno and East Coast Music award nominations, as well as a MuchMusic Global Groove Award for the video Bog aLochain.

The success of Suas e! contributed to an explosion of interest in Celtic culture and Lamond took the songs on the road with a live band. Her experiences on the stage directly influenced the sound of Ln Dil.

On Ln Dil Lamonds spell-binding renditions of treasured Gaelic songs are fused with original arrangements using a variety of instruments, from the familiar fiddle and bagpipes to Indian tabla. Ultimately, its a style of world music that is unique to Mary Jane Lamond.

Yet as the singer herself will tell you, its the stories that matter. While Ln Dil soothes and stirs, it also chronicles Cape Bretons living Scottish Gaelic culture. The sounds of friends, family and local legends are heard throughout the album.

Despite the important role her music plays in preserving Scottish Gaelic songs that would otherwise rarely be heard outside Cape Breton. This is a huge oral literary tradition that is being lost at an alarming rate, she says, and I am involved with community things that help conserve it for younger people. But Im also an interpreter, a singer and musician and in my music the challenge is to create something new and exciting that doesnt destroy the heart of it.

Brain Ghaidhlig (Gaelic Songs of Cape Breton), focuses on the songs and poetry which are the cornerstone of this tradition. This recording remains true to the simple sharing of music that is the foundation of Gaelic culture from the engaging milling songs performed by a group of Cape Bretons finest traditional Gaelic singers to the lively old style fiddling of Joe Peter MacLean, a musician never before captured on recording. Recorded at the beautiful North River Church in Cape Breton, this enhanced cd also features visuals taken during the recording sessions.