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KAREN MATHESON ‘Downriver’ Vertical VRTCD075 (2005)

Karen Matheson

Karen Matheson is at the forefront of Celtic Crossover, having come to the fore with Celtic fusion band Capercaillie and having broken out on her own with two previous solo works.

Capercaillie's musician base isn't very far away. Hubby Donald Shaw is that band's mainstay and producer, whilst Michael McGoldrick and Ewan Vernal are also current members.

Capercaillie fans will inevitably be drawn to Karen Matheson's solo works, it allows her perhaps a little more freedom especially when the spotlight is sometimes taken away by the ferocity of fiddle and pipe interplay.

Matheson's previous solo album, 'Time To Fall', was a happy blend of Celtic and contemporary and was fairly accessible to the non-converts.

'Downriver', on the other hand, takes its inspiration (and focus) from those native childhood songs she remembers, and sings so well. The quotient of Gaelic has been upped, as it were.

The secret weapon on this album, if there is one, is the magnificent James Grant. Grant has appeared on all Matheson's solo works and - with Donald Shaw - lends them a sheen of quiet excellence.

In particular, Grant has generously given two of the standout songs 'I Will Not Wear The Willow' and 'Singing In The Dark'. Both are sung in English and both are the most accessible. One can't help thinking that Grant should be allowed full rein next time. He nearly had it on 'Time To Fall' and that, no doubt, is the stronger album.

This is, though, a quietly appealing album, one to be played whilst savouring a sunset, and Arran Dark Ale, somewhere along the Scottish western coast.


Review by David Randall

Buy this CD

Singing In The Dark
© 2005 Vertical Records. All rights reserved.

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***** Out of this world | **** Pretty damn fine |
*** OK, approach with caution unless you are a fan |
** Instant bargain bin fodder | * Ugly. Just ugly

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