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One is left in little doubt at the outset that Blackwater marks a significant change in the career of Altan, the best-selling act in the history of U.S. Celtic independent label Green Linnet. Even before you notice that the album is not on Green Linnet and that the group has moved up to major label Virgin, and even before you consult the personnel list and the liner notes to find, if you didn't already know, that group co-founder Frankie Kennedy has died of cancer since the last album, you look at the album cover, a portrait of lead singer/fiddler Maighread Ní Dhomhnaill with the rest of the group miniaturized and pushed into a corner, and you can see that things have changed. This is not to say that Blackwater is simply a Ní Dhomhnaill solo album in the guise of an Altan album, though certainly one misses Kennedy's flute work and her vocals are quite prominent. In fact, the album is another well-chosen and well-played collection of largely traditional songs, jigs, and reels, and it should continue to please the group's fans. One can only assume that Virgin thought it was buying a world music crossover act like Clannad, though Altan has none of Clannad's pop or new age tendencies. More than likely, they'll be back on an indie soon enough, and one hopes no worse for wear.

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