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Borealis BCD170

August Gale combines the musical talents of Christina Smith and Jean Hewson on fourteen tracks, the majority of which are instrumentals. Both are great talents on their chosen instruments of guitar for Hewson, and fiddle and cello for Smith, combining to create some rousing and rollicking tunes. There are also several songs included, however, overall these lack the quality of the instrumental sets.

Hailing from Newfoundland, the most eastern of Canada's provinces which has a rich and diverse history, the duo have chosen many songs that reflect the tradition in which they developed. They have wisely not included any of the more widely known songs and tunes of the area, but have focused instead on material unfamiliar to many listeners outside of Newfoundland. Included are pieces by renowned fiddler and composer Emile Benoit, songwriter Ron Hynes and an array of traditional fare. The pair manages to imbue each of the tunes with fresh life and Smith is certainly abundantly capable of handling any tune passed her way, while Hewson's accompaniment adds depth and rhythm.

Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for the songs. Hewson's voice, while strong and in tune, has a harsh edge to it that I found hard to enjoy. The songs themselves are lyrically interesting and the histories provided in the bilingual (French and English) liner notes are fascinating. 'The Privateer', a duet with Greg Walsh, is the exception and the harmonies are very well done; the full emotion of the song is drawn out.

August Gale is a great album to acquire if you are looking for some well played new and unique instrumentals. If you are more a fan of songs, this is probably not the album for you.

Jean Price

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This album was reviewed in Issue 69 of The Living Tradition magazine.