Willson & McKee
"One Lone Rowan Tree"
"Another duo that does and outstanding job with harmonious narratives is Willson & Mckee. On One Lone Rowan Tree, Colorado-based singers and multi-instrumentalists Ken Willson and Kim Mckee are joined by a half-dozen guest musicians for a set of richly arranged story songs, mostly of the quiet contemplative sort, many of them originals in traditional Celtic ballad style. They do a lovely, slow version of "Scarborough Settler's Lament" that captures the wistful loneliness of the lyrics with a delicate cello and guitar accompaniment, and Padraig Buckley's uillean pipes add a lush buzz to a number of tracks, like "Last Trip Home," a moody evocative picture of changing times on a western farm. The disc's title song is a haunting picture of the anonymous graves once reserved in Ireland for those who had run afoul of the Catholic Church.
--Tom Nelligan, Dirty Linen Magazine
Willson & McKee's 6th recording is a powerful, award winning must have! Over the years the Montana (now Colorado) based duo has made sure that their recordings reflect their live shows. For anyone who has attended a Willson & McKee concert, you know that means a broad mix of traditional Celtic and their own brand of original music. Tune sets flow into songs, and many instruments are utilized, including hammered dulcimer, mountain dulcimer, Irish bouzouki, guitars, harp and others. In 2002, Kim McKee was awarded the National Mountain Dulcimer Championship, and as a result the couple released an all-instrumental cd, where only the sounds of the dulcimers (hammered and mountain) and guitars were to be found. It is a huge success with their fans and concertgoers!
This time around, the cd is all ballads! In August of 2003, the largest Irish fest in the world, Milwaukee Irish Festival, honored Kim with first place in the songwriting competition! The winning song was "The Pattern", a song W&M fans will quickly recognize. But the ironic twist is that composers were allowed to enter two songs, and Kim's second entry took 2nd place! That second place song, is the title for the new release "One Lone Rowan Tree". The title track was inspired by her visits to Ireland, and seeing lone trees growing in a tree-less landscape. These are poignant and powerful places called lost souls graves, the resting place for individuals who were not allowed to be buried in church cemeteries, for various reasons. This track as well as 2 others, has the haunting and beautiful sounds of the Uillean pipes recorded by Padraig Buckley, County Kerry, Ireland. When the recording was taking place in Ireland, all those involved were greatly moved by the song, because they all "have someone in a lost souls grave".
There are 9 original pieces by Kim, along with two traditional Scottish ballads, and one cover of a Battlefield Band Song. Accompaniment is light, with harp, keyboard, accordion and guitar, and matches the subtleties of the songs themselves.
Because of the songwriting awards, the design and graphic artist for the world publication Dirty Linen Magazine, Lahri Bond, offered to design the cover art for this recording! This is quite an honor, and the artwork is stunning! His review of the pre-release version of the recording was: "WOW! Let me repeat that, WOW! This disc should get the attention of the Celtic Folk world, on both sides of the Atlantic!"