World & Latin

Canadian Celtic


By the time The Cottars joined the Rounder label in 2005 and released Forerunner a year later, they had already cut two prior albums and established themselves as the precocious young upstarts on the Canadian Celtic music scene.

The band that began in 2000 as two pairs of fresh-faced teenage siblings from Nova Scotia's Breton Island (Ciarán and Fiona MacGillivray and Jimmy and Roseanne MacKenzie) had evolved into a seasoned, authentic and well-produced unit by mid-decade, as evidenced by this 12-song set that includes mostly traditional reels and jigs with a few covers and one original track thrown in.

Prone to mashing songs together in engaging medleys, The Cottars are at their best with traditional material like the driving "Miss Casey Medley: Miss Casey's Jig/The Humours Of Ballinafauna" and the more laid-back and whimsical "Honeysuckle Medley: The Honeysuckle Hornpipe/The Dancing Strathspey." But they're equally adept at the covers, like the melancholy rendition of Sinéad Lohan's "Send Me a River," the plaintive reading of Tom Waits' "Georgia Lee" and the rhythmic and defiant version of Waits' "Hold On," which closes the set on a percussive note. All of these point to the folk and pop influences that serve as a counterbalance the band's Celtic roots.

Forerunner marks the end of an era, however brief, as the MacKenzies would leave The Cottars and be replaced by Claire Pettit and Bruce Timmins in the subsequent Feast (2010). As a result, this 2006 recording stands as the best and most evolved work of the original lineup.