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Performance coincides with new album
WHATSON May 29, 2018 by Frank Matys Orillia Today
The Barra MacNeils are beloved for the rollicking blend of fiddle-driven tunes they deliver with cheerful abandon and a foot-stomping beat.
While the band’s latest release, titled On The Bright Side, would appear equally sunny in its outlook, there is a dose of something deeper, and slightly darker, in some of these grooves.
“There is an a cappella song on there called The Underachiever,” Stewart MacNeil, one of five performing siblings said in advance of the group’s May 31 show at the Orillia Opera House. “It is kind of an anthem for the downtrodden in society, who work very hard but have a lot of roadblocks on the way.”
Yet the album, released in tandem with the band’s tour’s launch, is far from gloomy.
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Long-time fans can expect some “lovely ballads” as well, with sister Lucy raising the bar a few notches, MacNeil said.
“She is just singing top-shelf these days,” he said, adding the album is brimming with the big harmonies and upbeat numbers that listeners have come to know and love.
All of it is delivered on a bed of instruments that range from piano, accordion and guitar to fiddle, bodhran, mandolin, banjo, Celtic harp, bouzouki and flute.
“As kids we were exposed to a lot of live music and a lot of good experiences,” MacNeil said while describing a household filled with song and dance. “Through good and bad, I think music was always there, and it was something we shared.”
The upcoming performance represents something of a departure for local audiences, who typically descend on the opera house in winter for the group’s traditional Christmas show.
“I think they’re going to be pleasantly surprised,” MacNeil said. “There is a trademark vocal sound with the band that, no matter what the style of music, that will always shine through.”