Album Review - Bill Leslie / Scotland - Grace of the Wild

Like the rest of the world, since 2008, life has just not been that much fun, so I tend to celebrate the little things in life, a call from a client asking for a quote, finishing a job, or better still, having corrective eye surgery that lets me see like a young man again. So I decided to celebrate by jumping in the car and driving to the mountains and touring Cades Cove, a well-visited primitive settlement in the Smokies. I knew I would need some special music for the occasion, so I took Bill Leslie with me. Well, not exactly Bill, but his latest release, Scotland – Grace of the Wild and I could not have made a better choice. His tuneful Celtic album was perfect for the beauty of the mountains in the late summer. Leslie has been literally changing his tune from a few years ago when he eschewed small acoustic ensemble and has been branching out to orchestral works and now his latest album is back to ensemble with a strong Celtic theme.

From gentle guitar and folksy violin to whimsical oboe and silvery-tongued pennywhistle, the opening cut, Grace of the Wild is like opening a big box of musical postcards and enjoying every sweet memory. For Bill Leslie, Scotland holds an innate beauty that is surpassed only by his love of the Blue Ridge Mountains. His recent journey to Scotland was truly inspirational. 

There is one Scottish song that the whole world knows. I call it the High Road Song, but the real title is The Bonnie Banks O’Loch Lomaond. Bill covers it as Loch Lomaond and involves Bill Covington’s contemplative piano adding a new layer of placidness to the old ballad. 

Aberdeenshire was one of my two real favorites on Scotland, although I loved the entire album. The exotic sound of Melanie Wilsden’s oboe and Nancy Green’s cello created a surrealistic background to a place where standing stones, druids and the Doric abide.    

Like a merry tour guide, the violin of Jennifer Curtis guides us in the tune Skye High. A visit to Scotland’s largest island, Skye reminds us that the land has been inhabited for millennia and the old ways fought a sturdy battle. This is the land of the crofters, the Clearances, castles and clan, a truly magical place.

Gaelic Soul had a wee bit of a cinematic feel to it as Bill’s flute and guitar danced together in a sweet ballad. It is a theme song for discovering stone column on lonely hills, the openness of the green glens, a chest full of “fairings”*, and skipping pebbles in the serene lochs.

What starts out as a mellow ballad turns quickly into a lively Scottish caper. The song, called Jonathan, is a celebration of life in olde and new Scotland and we are invited to join in the dance. Flowers of Edinburgh is a playful song dedicated to the home of mysteries that defy the ages. The song, to me, belongs is a formal Scottish parlor where pipes and piano invite the ladies and lords to dance a minuet. Powdered wigs are a must.   

I could almost imagine a will o’ the wisp drifting along in the mist as I listened to Across the Moor. Bill’s haunting flute echoes through the marshlands offering safe passage from the bad dreams and stress of daily living. Even though it has a simple ephemeral melody, it offers a mental hold on the physical, while the spirit is allowed to play.  

For American/Celtic composer Bill Leslie, there was is a new nobility, a new vision to be found on his latest visit to the homeland. Luckily, he remembered to bring along many musical souvenirs that allowed me to immerse my imagination in the excursion. I’m with you in spirit, Bill.

* “fairing” are Scottish love tokens

Rating: Excellent

 

To Purchase : www.cdbaby.com/cd/billleslie2

 

 

 

Bill Leslie
Scotland – Grace of the Wild
Greycliff Music

The Caledonian Caper

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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