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The ones that nearly got away: Capercaillie, Sidewaulk

[Capercaillie - Sidewaulk]

The clerk at the Lifelong AIDS Alliance Thrift Shop got a kick when I approached the counter with two copies of Capercaillie’s Sidewaulk, one on CD, the other on vinyl. Even I was astounded by the serendipity.

I had surrendered Capercaillie to a collection purge more than a decade previous. My fascination with Celtic music had long passed, and I was pressed for cash.

A playlist I created on Google Play Music based on some old mixed tapes brought Capercaillie back to my attention, and I craved to hear the band again.

Capercaillie also holds the distinction of being one of the first bands I discovered through the Internet. Numerous recommendation threads on rec.music.celtic mentioned them, and I was already enamored of Solas by Talitha Mackenzie.

Sidwaulk also introduced me to medleys of reels. While Clannad included instrumental tracks on their traditional albums, they didn’t perform them with the same dance tempo as Capercaillie or Altan.

My classically-trained, pop-raised ears at first found the simple A-B structure of reels a bit … wanting. But now, I appreciate the level of virtuosity required to perform them at such a frenetic pace.

Capercaillie, like Clannad, have a keen sense when to pull back from tradition and be a straight-forward pop group. “Fisherman’s Dream” would have found a spot on an adult contemporary radio playlist at the time of its release in 1989, and “O Mo Dhùthaich” can find admirers among Enya fans.

Listening to the album again makes me realize that some of these past collection purges may have been a bit excessive. Or else I was really desperate for cash to have part with an album as enjoyable — and instructional — as Sidewaulk.

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