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Things I'm Listening To These Days

A couple of music recommendations from the CD and MP3 players...

Carbon Leaf, Indian Summer: Released last July, this is possibly the most complete, balanced, holistic CD I own -- usually mellow and reflective, alternating between bright and dark. While the CD lacks some of the bouncy or rocking tracks that stood out on echo echo, such tracks would have been out of place on this consistently engaging album. Barry Privett's lyrics are less obscure but no less thought-provoking, and genius-level musicianship from guitarist/mandolinist Carter Gravatt and double bassist Jordan Medas make this an outstanding debut on the Vanguard Records label.

Scott Long, In and Out the Harbour: It's a classic no-win situation. You replace a popular, charismatic member of a band. You have a different personality -- an odder sense of humor, a little more sarcastic, not quite so warm and fuzzy. You help take the band in a different direction, and the band enjoys a peak of popularity and label/sponsor backing -- but you're still "the new guy" and the band "doesn't sound like it used to." That was the story for a few years after Long succeeded the Antipypr, Neil Anderson, as bagpiper for the Celtic rock band Seven Nations. What's changed since then? The Celtic fad has faded, which has returned bands like 7N to the core supporters who liked Celtic-derived music before it was cool. Fences have apparently been mended between the past and present generations, as Anderson shared the stage with Long and 7N in Florida at the end of November -- and a couple of fans asked on the message board, "Who was that piper who was playing with Scott?"

Now's the perfect time for Long's solo CD, released in June. In and Out the Harbour (Scott's from Nova Scotia, Canada) is a surprise. With Long, 7N traded improvisation and innovation for seamless accompaniment and clean technical proficiency. In and Out the Harbour is more experimental, although Long's pipe mastery continues to embody and respect the Cape Breton tradition. "Gravel Walks" is a crunchy rock and roll track, and a classic Ashley MacIsaac fiddle duet offers a taste of the pre-7N days. Rounded out with a few strathspey and reel sets and arrangements reminiscent of the first Peatbog Faeries album, this is a great piping CD with a little something extra.

Eagerly awaiting: New albums from Seven Nations and Fighting Gravity, word on how long Great Big Sea's upcoming break will be (hopefully temporary!), and the next Carbon Leaf concert at the Lincoln Theatre.


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