Keltic Kaleidoscope

Keltic Beginnings

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It's a somewhat rocky start for Keltic Kaleidoscope, who hails from Lambertville, MI. The female lead singer, Mary Behan Miller, has a lovely clear voice, but like many modern Celtic women, she's mismatched it with songs that are strongly masculine on the lyrics. The men in the group have good voices too -- you can hear them sing on other selections, but really, the song that would be more effective with one of them on lead is "Spanish Lady." Her precise diction is also quite at odds with the rough and ready nature of "Drunken Sailor," where, again, she's lead. When she sings about "my boyhood days" in "Carrickfergus," it's just wrong. Traditionalists will be flinching. She also strains a bit for high notes there. The song would do better sung in a lower register. "Paddy's Lamentation" is another example. Women did not carry guns and "fight for Lincoln" in the American Civil War, except in very unusual circumstances. So as a lead for "Paddy's Lamentation," Miller is simply not convincing, despite the loveliness of her voice. In an all-woman band, such an arrangement can be understood, but with men also present in Keltic Kaleidoscope, one of them really does need to take over lead on this song for it to work. Curiously enough, "Oh Danny Boy," which can ably be sung by either gender, has a male lead. It also offers some pleasant a cappella singing. Wild Rover is unfortunately flawed by Miller, who is singing so loudly on the chorus that she overwhelms it instead of harmonizing. Some moderation there would have helped. "Whistling Gypsy Rover" finds the male and female leads taking turns until the last verse, when both sing. The rendition is marred by some flat notes in some of the choruses and mistiming on the phrase "whistling gypsy rover," which leaves it sounding crammed in. This one definitely needs more work. The song they have titled "Lord of the Dance" may be better known to some listeners as the hymn "Simple Gifts": "'Tis a gift to be simple/'tis a gift to be free." If you're looking for "I'll lead you all in the dance, said he," that's not what they're performing in this case. "The Golden Vanity" is, for the most part, quite a nice version, with an appropriate and clear-toned male lead, plus, in this case, Miller's harmonies are subtle and enhancing. Unfortunately, it will annoy some audience members when she unnecessarily takes over lead on the penultimate verse, although casual listeners will probably find it acceptable. Traditionalists will regard it as a needlessly awkward arrangement, however. A good, suitable-to-lyrics masculine version of "Roddy McCorley" is presented, except they have some superfluous drumbeats at the end when it would have been better to just go with the vocal fadeout. In all, it's an uneven debut -- the band has some definite assets, yet they seem to work against themselves at times. If they can learn to maximize their strong points, and polish other aspects that are awkwardly dealt with on this album (including Mary Behan Miller learning when to power up and when to mellow down), then it's reasonable that in future they'll achieve what they clearly show potential for. On Keltic Beginnings, though, they're not quite up to it yet.

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