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Catherine MacLellan

Water in the Ground – 2009 (True North)

Reviewed by Stuart Munro

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CDs by Catherine MacLellan

"Water in the Ground" is the third release from Canadian singer-songwriter Catherine MacLellan (the U.S. version also includes a bonus disc of her debut, "Dark Dream Midnight"), and it marries strong songwriting and an engaging range of sounds to a lyrical focus on matters of the heart. Take a Break kicks things off with some relaxed, infectious swing, and there's more of the same with Hotel Cafe, which comes across as a personal recollection of sorts, and with the rueful kiss-off song Not Much to Do (Not Much to Say).

For the most part, MacLellan is a singer (and writer) of sad songs: the gorgeous, stripped-down simplicity of Something Gold recalls that most famous of Canadian singer-songwriters, Joni Mitchell, as does All Those Years, a bittersweet recollection of past love. All Our Sorrows Drown pairs loping acoustic country with a lovely expression of the pain of separation and anticipation of that pain's end, while Again From the Start matches its mournful sentiments with a spare guitar and banjo duo. And Flowers On Your Grave, a bleak recounting of a visit to a dead lover's gravesite, closes things on the same note. Depressing but undeniably beautiful stuff.