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Annual hometown concert in Sydney Mines on Wednesday

Band staying “On the Bright Side”
SYDNEY MINES — They’ve been at it for more than 30 years but there’s nothing like a new album to keep the Barra MacNeils’ spirits “On the Bright Side.”

Music from the new album, “On The Bright Side,” will be front and centre when the group gives its annual concert in Sydney Mines on Wednesday at St. Andrews Presbyterian Church, 7 p.m., and band member Lucy MacNeil couldn’t be happier about it.

“The last three years, we’ve had a few shows that we do every year in Cape Breton that keeps us home and we’re able to be home for family things that are going on and just to be home in Cape Breton in the summer — there’s nothing better,” says MacNeil.

“In my mind, I think this is one of our best releases yet.”

Oddly enough, it’s the first album of new original music that the group has done since 2005.

“We’ve had other albums and we’ve had projects but they weren’t new material,” she explains. “There were compilation albums and there were live albums, Christmas albums, Celtic Colours sessions and recordings with other people.”

MacNeil says the new album has a more optimistic slant and as far as she’s concerned, the group has never sounded better.

“I really feel all of us are singing better, playing better than ever. We like how it flows.”

The album features a fan-pleasing mix of traditional instrumentals, some songs written by Stewart MacNeil, some songs written by other performers and a Gaelic tune, “Ribhinn Donn (Brown Haired Girl),” which MacNeil says has to pass scrutiny of a Gaelic speaker.

“It was a song that I fell in love with — Angus MacLeod comes in to ensure things are right,” she says. “We try to do a song now and then to make our grandparents happy. They were Gaelic speakers.”

Two of Stewart MacNeil’s songs, “Living the Dream,” and “Clouds Under My Feet,” had been considered for their last album of original music but didn’t fit the feel at the time.

“We looked at them again for this project and this time we were really happy with how it worked,” she says. “’Living the Dream’ is still relevant today if you listen to the words and what’s going on in the world and how sometimes living the dream is just having the simple things in life and being happy with that.”

At this point in her life, MacNeil, 49, could be said to be living her own dream with a successful career, being able to spend time with her husband and three children during the summer months and being able to work well with her siblings for more than 30 years.

“I think there’s a lot of optimism on this album and brightness, and we’ve been together over 30 years and I think this is where we are,” she says. “We can still live in Cape Breton and our parents are still with us and we’re supporting the economy here. Sometimes you don’t realize that until you stop and look at it. Some people want it in numbers and bank accounts and followers, but to be able to live in Cape Breton and have your family and a somewhat peaceful life, being able to be home in the summertime and go down into your town and put on a concert for people, these are all wonderful things.”

In addition to the Sydney Mines concert, the Barras will perform at the Markland in Dingwall on Thursday, 7 p.m., and la Place des arts Pere-Anselme-Chiasson in Cheticamp on Aug. 30, 7:30 p.m. They will also performer in Miramichi on Aug. 6 before resuming their album release tour at the DeCoste Centre in Pictou on Sept. 29.


WHAT: Barra MacNeil’s annual Sydney Mines hometown show
WHERE: St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church
WHEN: Wednesday, 7 p.m.
TICKETS: Tickets available via Shoppers Drug Mart in North Sydney, Pharmasave in Sydney Mines or reserve yours by email: or 1-902-736-2508 TICKETS: $30 (general seating, tax included)