Dancing on a String

Bob MacLean
Bob MacLean is a Guelph based guitarist and singer who has appeared at various local festivals and folk clubs. Bob's first CD Dancing on a String is a great example of how successful a self-produced CD can be. I suspect the budget was not large, but this CD (engineered, mixed and mastered by John McKinney, Living Room Music in Elora) does a great job of presenting the music.

Bob's lush acoustic guitar sound (a 1994 Lowden O-12, according to the liner notes) is in the direct tradition of the English folk revival, with echoes of John Renbourn and Bert Jansch. This is a superbly recorded album of guitar instrumentals ranging from traditional ballads through O'Carolan and his own original compositions.

Bob's classical guitar background is evident in his technique and arrangements, but he avoids overplaying or overarranging. Although originally from Glace Bay, Cape Breton, his choice of material strikes me as being inspired more from the vocal tradition of the great ballads and the instrumental harp airs than from the jigs, reels and strathspeys of the dance tradition. As well as the Celtic influence, Latin rhythms are introduced with Celtino.

Although this CD is entirely instrumental, Bob's live act includes songs from his Ontario, Scottish, and Cape Breton roots. I hope his next CD will include some examples of those.

One of my favourite tracks on the CD is the traditional ballad Jock O' Hazeldean (2.5 Mb), which you can listen to in MPEG 3 audio. (For info on MPEG 3 and free players, go to

Review by Wil Macaulay March 8 1999

Dancing on a String - Bob MacLean
Mailing address:
   Argyle House Resources 
   46 Elora St. 
   Guelph Ont,
   N1H 2X8
   519 821 8028

The Tunes:
  November Rain
  Jock O'Hazeldean
  Touch the Dance
  The Dark Plaintive Youth
  My Hiking Boots
  Celtic Fare: Barbara Allen/
	       Banks of Loch Lomond/ 
	       My Bonnie/
	       The Banks of Red Roses/
	       Early One Morning/
	       Mairi's Wedding
  Intro - Lord Randall
  Lament for Owen Roe O'Neill/
	Planxty Dennis O'Connor
  A Tune for Jenn/ 
	My Son the Artist/
	The Curly Molly Ni Chuilleanian
  Blind Mary
  The Dewy Dells of Yarrow/
	She Changes Everthing She Touches.
  Plantxy Thomas Burke
  St George's Square

Copyright 1999 Wil Macaulay

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