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(05 March 2000) The best compilation of Celtic female vocal artists ever to be released is a masterwork entitled Faire Celts A Woman's Voice (Narada World (USA), 72438-48733-2-5, 2000). The album contains thirteen traditionally based tracks by as many top female vocalists, several presently featured within Musical Discoveries. An especially nice booklet accompanies the compact disc with lyrics, background and full details of each individual recording.

Sinéad O'Connor opens the album with her own stunning mid-register rendition of "He Moved Through The Fair" sung almost a capella over very lightly arranged instrumentation. Eimear Quinn's Eurovision 1996 winner "The Voice," previously only released in Ireland as a single commemorating the event, follows with her stunning soprano vocals over the a lush yet traditionally steeped orchestral arrangement. From Capercaillie's latest album Beautiful Wasteland (concert review), Karen Matheson sings the progressive Celtic number "Hebridean Hale-Bobb" in her unique mouth-music style. Next, Mary McLaughlin sings a lovely ballad written by Elenor McEvoy entitled "A Woman's Heart" over light string based instrumentation; multi-tracked vocals in the chorus add a lovely texture to the arrangement. The wide ranging interests and contrasting vocal melodies of Canadian artists Keri Steel and Nina Loretto of Imaginary Heaven are evident in the worldly duet "Can You See The Border." Jenny Schaub's superb vocals lead West Of Eden in a stunning progressive Celtic ballad entitled "This Piece Of Earth," a highlight of this magnificent album.

Altan and Mairéad Ní Mhaonaigh perform the traditionally based and upbeat folk tune "Molly Na gCuach Ní Chuilleanáin." A review of Altan's latest album Another Sky will be posted at Musical Discoveries later this month. American Connie Dover sends her vocals soaring in the sensitive ballad "I Am Going To The West" over the lightest keyboard and guitar instrumentation. Cathy Jordan's sweet yet deeper vocals contrast those before her in the song "Érin Grá mo Chroí" performed with lovely traditional string and other light accompaniment from her band Dervish. Cathy is regarded as one of the finest traditional singers in Ireland today. Rich production and a highly accessible Euro-pop arrangement make Talitha MacKenzie's "Hoireann O" from her Solas album one of the most enjoyable songs of this compilation.

Kim Robertson's whispy "Ferry Me Across The Water" is a precious ballad sung over her Celtic harp. A lovely whistle echoes the melody to vocalisations of Christina Rosetti's lyrics (Rosetti also wrote the famous hymn "In The Bleak Mid-Winter" performed by Annie Haslam and Michael Dunford as Nevada in 1980). Continuing with harp and whistle, Mae McKenna's stunning ballad "Dream Lover" is a testament to the singer's vocal breadth and energy. The song is from Mae's recently re-issued album Mirage and Reality (review). The album concludes with a contemporary orchestral arrangement of an otherwise traditional Gaelic medley by Sandra MacKay and Tannas entitled "Thoir Dhohm Do Lamh/Ruidhleadh Na Coilich Dhubha." Multitracked vocal work, whistle and tremendous instrumentals contribute to the track's rich sound.

You can order the Faire Celts compilation at amazon.com here. This thirteen-track compilation is the finest ensemble of tracks by Celtic-inpsired female vocalists. The album should be further explored as a collection and to introduce listeners to artists that they may not have yet discovered. Highly recommended to a broad audience of female vocal enthusiasts, this album is absolutely worth a cross country journey—a must listen in every respect!

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