December 31, 2003

Blasting cap

Nine Blasted Notes
Michael Grey
Dunaber Music,

Reviewer's rating: 4.5 gracenotes out of a possible 5

Reviewed by Laura Mergelas

Michael Grey may complain of having only nine blasted notes with which to work on his new recording of the same name, but he does a fine job of rising above the limitation. It’s difficult to categorize a CD with such variety, especially since the songs and tunes borrow not only from different cultural influences, but strike an even balance between vocal and instrumental.

The first two tracks have a familiar ring — what I would liken to early Ashley MacIsaac, but with pipes instead of fiddle. Similarly, “End of the Road,” an adaptation of a Harry Lauder lyric, again has no overpowering piping, and its harmony is a good fit with Paula Lynn Walker’s hauntingly beautiful voice.

The fusion of pipes with mystic female chanting—voices that perhaps intentionally remind me of echoes across the moor—continue through “Sound of Skye” and “Like a Hawk.” The melding of voices and Grey’s piping are enchanting, making the songs easy to appreciate simply because the juxtaposition of soft chanting with sharp pipe music play off of each other so well.

My favourite track by far was “Nine Blasted Notes,” a mix of funky Indian beats with varying tempos and energetic drumming. DJs today pride themselves in original dance and lounge mixes, so, why not the pipes? “Nine Blasted Notes” is probably the most up-tempo of all the tracks, and the most inspiring in its originality.

Two other songs that I found adequate but not overly exciting, were “L’Estrie” and “Two Crows Joy” — adequate because I felt they fit well with the CD’s easy format, but they failed to keep my interest the way some of the others did. That said, they made fine background music while I read the paper on Sunday morning, and would probably serve the same purpose at a dinner party.

“St. Cyrus” and the dance mix of “End of the Road” seemed not really a good fit with Grey’s other work, and not much of a fit with anything else either. Perhaps it was because I felt much more like dancing to “Nine Blasted Notes” than anything else!

In summary: a comfy CD, with familiar tones, and interesting mixes of piping and vocals. Great for a dinner party.

Neither a piper nor a drummer, Laura Mergelas is a keen follower of virtually all modern music, including new developments in the Celtic genre. She works as a public relations consultant in Toronto with one of Canada’s top agencies.


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