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Album Review: Celtic Peace
Bill Leslie
Cover image of the album Celtic Peace by Bill Leslie
Celtic Peace
Bill Leslie
2021 / Greycliff Music
43 minutes
Review by Kathy Parsons
Bill Leslie has been one of my favorite artists for more than fifteen years now, and Celtic Peace could easily be his best album yet. Leslie's albums have been consistent chart-toppers and award winners, and I would expect no less for this one. Heartfelt and expressive, ten of the twelve tracks are original compositions. Some feature smaller ensembles and some are fully orchestrated. Also a favorite artist, pianist/composer Joseph Akins, appears on three tracks. Other featured musicians include Jennifer Curtis (violin), Linda Metz (flute) and Melanie Wilsden (oboe). Bill Leslie plays Celtic whistles, piano, harmonium and guitar, as well as orchestrating and producing the album. As the title suggests, the music is soothing, uplifting and a gentle but compelling reminder of the beauty that is all around - and within - us.

I think Bill Leslie explains the inspiration for the music best: "Celtic Peace is a product of the pandemic.  Finding refuge in my music studio, I wanted to create a work of beauty to help diminish the darkness of 2020. As I began composing I found myself reflecting on themes of peace and healing.  My mind drifted overseas to Scotland and Ireland.  The album cover is a sunrise I photographed in Glencoe, Scotland while vacationing with family and friends in 2017.  We also visited Iona, Edinburgh and Ben Nevis, three places that inspired songs for this project." (quoted from Bill Leslie's website).

Celtic Peace begins with "Iona," named for a small island that is Scotland's cradle of Christianity. The music is warm and reflective, expressing strength, reverence and humility - a lovely start! "Ben Nevis" was inspired by the tallest mountain on the British Isles. Violin and oboe enhance the simple beauty of Leslie's Celtic whistle and give it a haunting quality. "Grace in Stone" was composed in 1998 to honor Leslie's Scots-Irish ancestors who helped to build an Episcopal church in North Carolina. One of the pieces for a smaller ensemble, the quintet of Celtic whistle, piano (Akins), violin, flute and oboe bring this beautiful music to life. The graceful title track features Leslie on guitar and piano along with the violin (Curtis), flute (Metz) and oboe (Wilsden) - soulful and very calming. "Planxty Irwin" is a traditional Irish air performed by Leslie, Akins and Wilsden - a trio for the ages! "Foggy Dew" is the other traditional Irish piece and showcases some beautiful solo piano by Akins as well as violin, whistle and a little bit of harmonium. One of the more orchestrated pieces, "Scottish Lullaby" honors Leslie's four granddaughters - peaceful, warm and overflowing with love. "Skara Brae" was inspired by an area in Scotland that is the best-preserved Neolithic village in Europe and is older than The Great Pyramids of Egypt. Very stately yet inviting, the music is as timeless as the place and tells of an area that has seen so much over many centuries and is still standing firm and strong.

Celtic Peace is a great album! It is available from www.billleslie.com, Amazon, Apple Music/iTunes and streaming sites like Spotify. Don't miss it!
May 1, 2021
Contributing artists:
Joseph Akins