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Gavin O'Loghlen & Cotters Bequest - My Mother's Country CD (album) cover


Gavin O'Loghlen & Cotters Bequest


Prog Folk

3.96 | 4 ratings

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4 stars The popularity of Celtic music resurged in the 1990s, sparked largely by the slick and lavish extravaganzas that toured the globe for years. But they also did a disservice to the tradition by implying that folk could only play with the big boys if it adopted excesses better suited to more grandiose genres like opera, symphony and musical theatre. The alternative, we had learned, was that dreadfully overdone Celtic new age commercialized by a sister of Moya Brennan (I can't say her name. at least not today) or your standard foursome of bearded dudes playing fiddle and accordion as fast as they can (yawn). Is there a middle ground? Yes I say, and it's GAVIN O'LOGHLEN and the COTTER'S BEQUEST, from Australia of all places.

Drawing upon British Isles influence from whence Gavin's mother departed for Antipodean shores, "My Mother's Country" represents an elegant, graceful, and ambitious take on Celtic rock, with clear if not always overt progressive influences. If it is flawed, it is more in its generally downcast mood and tempo, broken on occasion but perhaps not often enough. Yet their deft handling of the angelic female vocals and the obligatory instrumentals, both frequently the downfall of lesser acts, steadies them in the top quintile. The sound is expansive in a manner recalling the best RUNRIG albums, to majestic effect.

The album starts a bit too languidly but builds slowly, the first moments beyond the ordinary being the ponderous cello-like breaks in "St Michael's Mount". From there the glittering "Cerne Abbas" showcases the clarity of the collective vision. glittering melodies blending in subtle shifts. The pipes lead the way but occasional keyboards and martial drums quietly insist on themselves. "Isle of Man" initially sounds like a step back into the ersatz ballad territory except that the choruses recall sacred Scottish chanting akin to the likes of the aforementioned RUNRIG of Skye and CALUM MARIN of Lewis. "Stonehenge" similarly bursts forth from its shackles with a suitably mystical aura and creative instrumentation including a timid yet significant banjo underpinning during an instrumental break. For me the highlight is the eighth track, an apparently Welsh word or name with dozens of characters. Musically it's a vivacious take on CLANNAD's classic "Northern Skyline", and O'Loghlen really shines vocally on the English verses, with the harmonies following suit on the (Welsh?) chorus. "The closer "Silsbury Hill" provides the embryonic blueprint for O'Loghlen's more progressive future. Perhaps it's the title that draws the comparison to PETER GABRIEL in his world weary voice, but DAVID COUSINS is also an apt comparison.

"My Mother's Country" is a mature effort by one of the few "big bands" that fiercely balances on the Celtic rock, and is recommended whether you are 1 or 100 generations removed from your own mother country.

kenethlevine | 4/5 |


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