In All Things they do, Leahy excel. The pride of Lakefield, Ontario, the multi-talented musical collective have taken another major leap forward on this, their third Virgin/EMI Records release. So many artists narrow their focus once they become popular. Leahy continue to expand theirs, while never losing the essence of their unique and irresistible style. If variety is the spice of life, then Leahy fill an entire rack with diverse musical aromas and flavours.
In All Things takes the listener on another fascinating journey across different genres and musical cultures. There are the trademark instrumental pieces like "Pointe Au Pic Medley" (an homage to their Quebecois influences), "Gzowski Medley" (inspired by their respect for the Canadian cultural icon), "Wedding Day Jig," and "Chasing Rain," a tune capturing the step dancing element that's always a key part of the legendary Leahy live experience." Donnell Leahy is internationally recognised as a true master of his instrument, and these tunes confirm the ever-growing technical prowess of all eight group members.
They have taken similarly impressive strides forward with the vocal tracks on In All Things. The dramatic "High Places" showcases their sonic adventurousness, "Coyote" and "Runaway" are bright melodic pop songs, and "I Want You To Know" is a haunting ballad, featuring pure vocals and eloquent fiddle playing.
The eclectic nature of In All Things came completely naturally, as Erin explains. "With each project we look at the material we have all been writing. We don't really have a particular direction in mind in terms of how we want something to sound until we collect all the material that everyone has been working on, and see what moves us enough to develop further." "We all write individually," adds Donnell. "Sometimes something that is half-written becomes a collaboration, other times someone writes a whole piece. There is a sort of general vibe that we possess, where we all recognise whether we like a piece or not. Then there will be a collaborative effort in tweaking or finishing it off."
The album was primarily recorded at The Farm, their home studio in Lakefield. Donnell explains that "we produced it ourselves because we want to sound natural and honest. We want to sound like Leahy."
It's no accident that a healthy communal vibe exists within Leahy. Growing up together on the farm, they'd work outside by day, play, dance and sing by night. Erin recalls that their fiddle-playing father and champion step dancing mother "encouraged us to listen to and play a wide variety of styles. I see that coming across in our writing today."
As teens, the siblings performed across Canada with their parents, and quickly became favourites on the festival and fair circuit. A documentary profile, Leahy: Music Most Of All, won a 1985 Academy Award for Best Foreign Student Film. Following an extended break from performing, the members of Leahy reunited, and a deal with Virgin Records saw their career soar in dramatic fashion.
1997's self-titled debut seized the public's attention, and extensive touring (much of it as opening act for Shania Twain) boosted Leahy to phenomenal sales of double platinum (over 200,000) in Canada. It also sold impressively in the U.S. (where it reached No. 4 on the Billboard world music chart), Great Britain and Europe, proving that the Leahy sound travels well. The group snared Juno Awards for Best Instrumental Group and Best New Group in 1997, and took home the Best Country Group or Duo trophy the following year. 2001's gold-selling Lakefield saw Leahy integrating vocal-driven material into their expanding repertoire to fine effect, and In All Things now emerges as their strongest recording to date.
Their compelling career voyage has proven that a musical style defying easy definition can still find a large and wide audience. "It is liberating to see that there are no boundaries," stresses Donnell. "Over the course of a year, we perform at jazz, bluegrass, country and Celtic festivals. We play for classical audiences, we've played with heavy metal bands, and it works every time."
Leahy's genuine love of such a diverse range of music fuels their own uncompromising creativity. By refusing to be bound to the conventions of any one genre, they have forged a sound that can honestly be called unique.
The title of In All Things refers to music, explains Erin Leahy. "It is our spirit, it is how we are connected, it is a reflection of our experiences throughout life."
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