(11 May 2003) Choice Language (Vertical Records (UK) VRTCD006, 2003) is the title of the new twelve track album by Celtic supergroup Capercaillie. The title conveys the band's long standing links with the Gaelic tradition and also the modern interpretation of ancient songs and tunes that has become the band's trademark. The first album of all new material since Nadurra, it will quickly become the must have addition to existing fans' collections and open others ears to the Capercaillie sound.
The band has moved their unique brand of fusion and crossover to another level. Samples, loops and strong grooves are used exstensively alongside the familiar mix of instrumentation -- fiddle, uillean pips -- and of course the stunning voice of Karen Matheson. There is a maturity and confidence about Choice Language. Observe the new feel of the music created around a stronger-than-ever rhythm section: Che Beresford (drums), Ewen Vernel (bass) and David "Chimp" Robertson (percussion). Stalwarts of the lineup remain Donald Shaw (accordion, keyboard), Charlie McKerron (fiddle), Manus Lunny (bouzouki) and Michael McGoldrick (flute and pipe).
The album was recorded over the last nine months beginning in Porto Ullise, Sardinia and then continuoing on to Donegal, Aviemore and at Secret Music Studios in Glasgow. The album is viewed by the band as their most ambitious in their twenty-year musical career. Listened to by our editorial staff for the last month, we can clearly say that it is a masterpiece and a certain step forward for the band.
We especially like the way that Capercaillie have woven traditional material with modern interpretation. A unique balance of upbeat instrumentals complement gentle vocally intense ballads and tunes that are midway between the two. The lyrics are similarly balanced with English and Gaelic both present in the project alternating effectively in a way that will clearly please the band's audience.
Karen Matheson is in extremely fine form on lead vocals and listeners will explore her entire vocal range enjoying this album. Instrumentals are well arranged, never overpowering the vocals and effectively isolated to ensure that the intracies of the various players contributions can be heard. Production quality can not be topped. Make no mistake about it, this album follows in the vein of those that precede it but it does take a giant step forward.
Capercaillie's music has long been the standing definition of progressive Celtic. Groove influences emerge in the Gaelic textured tune that opens the album, "Mile Marbhaisg," a traditional tune arranged by Capercaillie. "The old crone (Port na Caillich)" is a rapid Celtic crossover tune full of lush harmonies, great whistle excursions and feet-tapping instrumentals. "At dawn of day" continues to develop the sound but with even more striking vocal work, while "The boy who" continues the migration with an English lyric.
The album includes several lovely Karen Matheson-centered ballads such as "Little do they know," "Nuair a
chi thu caileag bhoidreach," and the gentle closing acoustic ballad "I Will Set My Ship In Order" that features a great vocal part supported by rhythmic acoustic-style guitar, whistle and equivalantly stunning uillean pipe part.
Like their former albums several of the tracks are ultimately accessible, have unmistakable hooks and stand out. The mid-tempo ballad "Who Will Raise Their Voice?" is clearly one of them. And while Capercaillie's vocal numbers are most appealing to many, their instrumentals can not be overlooked. The robust penultimate track from which the title had originally been derived "Sort of slides" is a tremendous statement to the instrumentalists' virtuousity as is "Mooney's Reel" two tracks that will capture the Celtic imagination of any listener. The accordion-flavoured "The Sound of Sleat" is also tremendous.
Three years since their last studio album, Choice Language was clearly worth the wait. The music of Capercaillie--spanning a vast range of albums--is clearly worth exploration. Interested visitors should start with one of the collections after listening to the new album.
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Clearly worth a trans-Atlantic journey, Choice Language is a must listen!