Mary Jane Lamond
is the moody, gothic loner who never does her homework but knows all the exam answers anyway, whose mysterious depth of soul attracts like a beacon in the night. Despite an early background in the Montreal punk scene, Lamond
sings exclusively in Scottish Gaelic (grand-parental ties drew her back to Cape Breton, where she is now based). On Suas e!
(pronounce it su-ess-ay...a broad Gaelic exclamation meaning "go for it!" or "party down!"), her muse appears equally rooted in tradition and experimentation, the language effective on a purely artistic basis -- vocals weave through the disc's contemporary fusion arrangements of bagpipes, bodhran and cello like another exotic instrument, independent of actual meaning.
Despite the modern trappings and untraditional backing from members of Toronto's Base Is Base and Blue Rodeo
, the production is mostly restrained and haunting. On opener "Oran Sniomh (Spinning Song)," rhythm is kept by the notching sound of a working spinning wheel (which could also easily pass for a ship's tie being pulled taught by lapping waves). One of the more radio-friendly turns comes when soul-mate Ashley MacIsaac and his Kitchen Devils play return-the-favor on one of Cape Breton's most popular strathespeys "Bog a'Lochain" -- a funky number much in keeping with MacIsaac's breakthrough hit "Sleeping Maggie," on which Lamond
provided vocals. Sprightly reel "Horo Ghiod Thu Nighean (Stepping Song)" is punctuated by the reverberating wave of eight step-dancers beating the floorboards. But mostly, it's a multi-tracked Lamond
luring the listener, blissfully unconscious, to the rocks.