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Slainte Mhath - Prophecy Review

By Cliff McGann - Celtic Heritage Magazine

With artists like Natalie MacMaster singing the praises of this group as the next big thing to come out of Cape breton, Slainte Mhath (Gaelic for Good Health) has a heavy weight to bear on their shoulders. For the most part this group of four young Maritimers hold up under the weight with an inspired collection of eight (one's hidden) instrumental tracks. At the heart of the group is the viruosity of piper Bruce MacPhee, Pipe Major of the Gaelic College Pipe Band, and the fiery fiddling of Cape Bretoner's Bhreagh MacDonald and Boyd MacNeil. Rounding out the group is Ryan MacNeil on piano who has recorded with the likes of Irish fiddler Maire O'Keefe and also happens to be one of the most impressive pianists in Cape Breton today. What sets Slainte Mhath apart from other Cape Breton groups is the fact that they stick to basic traditional music with more of a nod to Scottish groups like the Battlefield Band and Tannahill Weavers than to contemporary Cape Breton groups. They set themselves apart from the current trend in the Maritimes towards alternative-Celtic or country-Celtic and create a niche almost all to themselves. The use of some unique percussion (djimbe and jug) helps keep things playful and never dull musically.

My only complaints have to do with their repertoire which relies heavily upon the modern piping tradition and that like so many recordings from Cape Breton it lacks representation from the Island's rich song tradition. With that said, these guys have produced a memorable instrumental recordings of Cape Breton music in some time. Both innovative and respectful of traditions, Prophecy is a recording that stands out and begs to be listened to.

 

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