The Cottars are a prodigiously talented quartet from Cape Breton Island, steeped in the Celtic traditions of the region but also open to other folk and pop influences. Originally consisting of two sets of siblings, the group now includes founding members Ciarán and Fiona MacGillivray but has lost Jimmy and Roseanne MacKenzie, who are replaced by newcomers Claire Pettit (fiddle, vocals) and Bruce Timmins (vocals, guitars). The group's sound has changed little: the playing is still virtuosic (though given rather short shrift on this program, which features only one set each of jigs and reels) and the singing preternaturally sweet, and there is still a slight tendency toward the sentimental and even maudlin. This album's high points are those two instrumental sets (especially the lovely jig set "The Munster Suite"), a somewhat country-flavored version of the Mark Knopfler composition "Fare Thee Well, Northumberland," and a dynamite rendition of the traditional song "The 23rd of June" (also known as "The Jug of Punch") that starts out as a simple unison arrangement and then blossoms into thrillingly tight harmony. Less compelling are the moistly sentimental "Your Love's Return" (which gets a little bit of leeway for being a Stephen Foster tribute, but still) and a version of "Leave Tomorrow ‘Til It Comes" that is too quavery and quietly intense by half. A fine album, one that would have been even better with a bit more emphasis on rousing instrumentals and a little less on sentimental ballads.
AllMusic Review by Rick Anderson