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Fiona Mackenzie - Elevate - Atlantic Audio Society


26 May 2008
Atlanta Audio Society

Fiona Mackenzie, red-haired native of the Isle of Lewis off the west coast of Scotland, has been writing and performing her own songs since her early teens. In Elevate, she sings eleven of her self-penned lyrics in English and Gaelic. Gentle, wistfully sad and reflective, but never depressing, her songs have a haunting beauty that reflects her Celtic heritage. Are they basically folk or contemporary? Fiona's inventive style as a songwriter and her way with a lyric as singer makes you realize such idiomatic distinctions aren't worth a brass farthing.

The songs themselves are "about" love with all the conflicts of the heart that the word implies: wistful longing, optimism, the ecstasy of being loved, the pain of being jilted, nostalgia and regret. (Who was it who once said, "The heart has its reasons that reason knows not of"?) Titles include "When the sunny sky has gone," "In Between," "Bye bye," "At the bottom of the sea," and "A little while longer." Her lyrics have an evocative quality for which the wistful fragility of her voice is ideal: "I couldn't write a letter / but I'd know the words I'd say / I couldn't telephone you / but I'd hear you calling me / I couldn't watch the stars / fall quietly to the moon / but I'd still see your face / at the bottom of the sea." Charming!

Some of her lyrics are more subtle, as in the ironic comment on the end of a love as seen by the observer and felt by the party affected: "Too many people turning their heads away / from the picture, so nobody sees / "it didn't happen" I heard a man say / "you can't trust a mind if the mind isn't yours / and if it's your mind it's best not to know" (Lots of People).

Supporting Fiona's vocals are co-producer Calum Malcolm (piano, electric piano, organ, accordion, bass, programming); Brian O hEadhra (vibrato guitar, bouzouki, bodhran); Stuart McCredie (electric guitars); Quee McArthur (bass); Dave Stewart (drums); Mairi Campbell (strings); Matt Backer (vibrato and wire guitars); and Julien Arguelles (saxophone). A nice variety of timbres, that, but used subtly and discretely so the right instruments always back up the right moments. Recommended as a refreshing change for those who want something more in their popular music culture.


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