Northern Journey Online

Eileen McGann

(Contemporary; Traditional; Singer-Songwriter)

"Irish melodies are reason enough for anyone to become a singer"--Eileen McGann. Calgary resident Eileen McGann started as a singer of traditional Celtic songs and gradually inserted her own material into her repertoire. The daughter of Irish parents, McGann fell in love with traditional Irish music, especially the a cappella melodies. During her university years she did guest sets at the Fiddler's Green Folk Club in Toronto and later at festivals. Once folkies heard her beautiful, lilting voice and her perceptive, intelligent lyrics, it was only a matter of time before McGann became a fan favourite. McGann's first album, Elements (1987), is a mix of traditional material and original songs. The supporting musicians and singers on the album read like a who's who of Canadian folk music: Grit Laskin, Garnet Rogers, Cathy Miller, and Ken Whiteley, who also produced the album. A beautiful debut album.

Her second album, Turn It Around (1991), features a growing, maturing songwriter. Her original songs include "Turn It Around," about a street person in Toronto, "Requiem (For The Giants)," a protest and lament about proposed clearcutting of the old pines of Temagami, and "Westminster Bridge," inspired by a "cardboard city" in London. The strong supporting cast is continued, with the likes of Grit Laskin, Garnet Rogers, Mary Anderson, Ken Brown, Anne Lederman, and Cathy Miller. This is an extraordinarily good folk album. "Requiem (For the Giants)" received an "Environmental Song Award" Porcupine in 1991.

McGann's third album, Journeys (1995), puts McGann more directly on her own personal journey as a songwriter. There are only three traditional songs on the album: "Bonny Portmore," "Braw Sailin' on The Sea," and "Jock O'Hazeldean." As usual, McGann injects magic into these numbers. But what's most impressive about the album is McGann's increasing confidence as a songwriter. Songs like "I See My Journey," "Reservations," "In the Silence," "Rolling Home Canadian," "Windigo's Coming," and "Too Stupid for Democracy" are fine contemporary folksongs. Once again McGann is surrounded by some of the industry's best--a partial list includes Mary Anderson, Ken Brown, Stephen Fearing, David Knutson, Anne Lederman, Cathy Miller, Oliver Schroer, and David Woodhead.

McGann is exceptionally adept at switching between her own songs and traditional material she has collected. Concert goers have implored her for years to release an "all-trad" album and she has responded with Heritage: Traditional Songs of Ireland, Scotland, England and Canada (1997). A traditionalist's delight, Heritage will provide hours of listening pleasure and inspiration. McGann is to be commended for her continued efforts to highlight these gems of the past. While some of the material is well known, many of these songs have been rescued from obscurity. Beautifully sung and performed, you could ask for little more. This is an album you will treasure.


Elements
1987 Dragonwing (DRGN 111CD)
Live Not Where I Love; Isabella Gunn; My Lagan Love; Temagami; Sands; Man's Job; The Power and the Need; The Riddle Song; Here's to the Men; Canoe Song at Twilight 41:47

Turn It Around *
1991 Dragonwing (DRGN 112CD)
Turn It Around; The Fair Flower of Northumberland; Requiem (For the Giants); Tiree Love Song; Leaving This Nation; Westminster Bridge; The Parting; The Dancers of Stanton Drew; The Knight of the Rose; Whitewater; Thyme 50:03

Journeys *
1995 Dragonwing (DRGN 113-CD)
I See My Journey; Bonny Portmore; Reservations; In the Silence; Braw Sailin' on the Sea; Rolling Home Canadian; Windigo's Coming; Reach for the Light; Too Stupid for Democracy; Jock O'Hazeldean; Kassandra; Another Train 54:59

Heritage: Traditional Songs of Ireland, Scotland, England
1997 Dragonwing (DRGN 005)
Blackwaterside; Lowlands; Peggy Gordon; My Brief on the Sea/Cape Clear; The Rolling of the Stones; Faithful Johnny; A Beggin' I Will Go/Tae the Beggin' I Will Go/The Little Beggarman; Lord Franklin; Little Musgrave; As I Walked Out/Farewell to Erin; The Beltane; Female Drummer; There'll Be More Joy 51:30

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Copyright © 1999, Gene Wilburn,