Capercaillie, Roses and Tears (Vertical Records, 2008)

Ever since the eighties, particularly their 1989 CD Sidewaulk, Capercaillie have been at the forefront of the folk music scene in Scotland.  Their career has had a number of impressive highlights, including an unlikely hit on the UK pop charts with the Gaelic song "Coisich, a Rùin (Come On, My Love)" and an appearance in the major motion picture Rob Roy.  Their music has gotten less purely traditional over the years, with the addition first of a full-time drummer and then a percussionist as well.  But you could also argue that they have become a bit formulaic, never really straying very far from the style they developed in the late eighties and early nineties.  Their most recent effort Roses and Tears probably won't change anybody's mind about the group, but for longtime fans that is not necessarily a bad thing.

Roses and Tears does follow a similar pattern to other Capercaillie albums.  A number of songs feature Karen Matheson singing Gaelic mouth music over smooth, jazzy rhythms flavored with Scottish jigs and reels.  The supporting cast of bandleader Donald Shaw (accordion and keyboards), Manus Lunny (guitar and bouzouki), Charlie McKerron (fiddle), Michael McGoldrick (flutes, whistles, pipes), Ewen Vernal (bass), Che Bersford (drums), and David Robertson (percussion) mix traditional tunes with original compositions, using arrangements that are both groove-oriented yet rooted in the sounds of their homeland.  There has always been a bit of a political element to Capercaillie's music, and that comes out on Roses and Tears as well. The two songs sung in English both deal with war, particularly the plight of Scottish soldiers.  "Don't You Go," written by the recently deceased English singer/guitarist John Martyn, is a plea from a mother to her son to question the motivations of the people asking for his service.  Shaw's composition "Soldier Boy" expresses hope that soldiers return with their minds, bodies, and consciences intact.

Roses and Tears is nothing new to people familiar with the previous work of Capercaillie.  The band do what they do, and they generally do it well. I was hoping for more lively pieces myself, but the band only really cut loose on "Rose Cottage Reels." Otherwise, the album is decent affair, not their best work but sufficient to please their audience.

Overall grade: B-

reviewed by Scott

A photo montage of Scotland set to "Him Bó," the first song on
Roses and Tears

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