Scotland: Grace of the Wild Bill Leslie 2013 / Capitol Broadcasting Company 43 minutes
It’s been two years since Bill Leslie released his chart-topping and award-winning "A Midnight Clear - Christmas in Mitford," but I’m very happy to say that Bill is back in top form with "Scotland: Grace of the Wild," a fourteen-track instrumental album inspired by a trip to Scotland that was a college graduation gift to Bill’s son (and percussionist), Will. It was Bill’s third trip to the land of his ancestors, but he found himself seeing the beauty of the countryside through new eyes as he photographed the landscapes in the quiet moments just before and after dawn. In addition to being named “one of the greats in modern Celtic music” by cellist Yo-Yo Ma, Bill Leslie is a veteran television news journalist for CBS affiliate WRAL in Raleigh, NC, who has won more than 80 major news awards including five Emmys and two Peabody Awards. "Scotland: Grace of the Wild" includes nine original compositions and five traditional Scottish pieces arranged for piano by Bill Covington. In addition to Leslie’s guitar, Celtic whistles and keyboards, Covington is featured on piano and accordion, Jennifer Curtis on violin, Nancy Green and David Oh on cello, Will Leslie on percussion, and Melanie Wilsden on oboe. I always love when a new Bill Leslie’s CD arrives for review because it’s always such a treat for the soul as well as the ears.
"Scotland: Grace of the Wild" begins with the title track, a wistful piece that evokes visions of misty moors and rocky hillsides - perfect for a soundtrack! “Loch Lomond” is one of the traditional songs, and Bill Covington’s piano is especially elegant in this piece. “Portree” is a gentle beauty that features Leslie on guitars, whistles, and keyboards as well as Covington on piano and accordion, and the wonderfully expressive violin of Jennifer Curtis. “Black Is the Color” starts with a gorgeous piano arrangement of this traditional song, gradually adding violin, cello, and whistles - a favorite. I also love “Dunnottar,” a somewhat darker and more haunting piece that features Leslie on guitars, whistles, and keyboards. “Bridge of Lochay” is as peaceful as fog silently moving along the coast - sigh! Violin, guitar, whistles, and oboe take “Skye High” soaring into the gentle mists. “Gaelic Soul” is another standout with Leslie performing on guitar, whistles, bass and organ (I’d like to see that live!) joined by Curtis on violin and Green on cello. Delicate yet spirited, and another favorite. “Flowers of Edinburgh” is a sweet and jaunty country dance (traditional) that conjures up images of long-stemmed flowers waving gracefully in the breeze. The closing track, “Across the Moor,” is a whistle solo (with some atmospheric sounds in the background) that is cool, rather lonely, and very poignant - a lovely ending to another great album from Bill Leslie!
"Scotland: Grace of the Wild" is certain to place Bill Leslie in the front lines of the world music/Celtic/instrumental music awards again this year and I’ll be cheering him on! The album is available from www.BillLeslie.com, Amazon, iTunes, and CD Baby. Very highly recommended!