Some artists have the knack for penning beautiful, intelligent songs that have a timeless sound and feel to them, while others are adept at interpreting material from the ages in a fresh, distinctive way that makes them sound like original songs. It's rare to find an artist who can do both, and rarer still to find one who also brings one of the most classically beautiful voices in the world of folk music to the show as well. This would be a pretty accurate description of the talent of Canadian songstress Eileen McGann.
Born in Calgary, Alberta in the late 1950s, on the slope of the Rocky Mountains, McGann was a first-generation Canadian, the daughter of Irish and Welsh immigrant parents. As a teenager, she became fascinated with the music of not only American folk/pop stars like Don McLean but also fellow Canadians like Gordon Lightfoot and Stan Rogers. While working toward a degree in medieval history, she was invited by a professor to perform at a St. Patrick's Day party. Despite her Irish heritage, the realization struck her that she did not know any Irish songs. In listening to some of her mother's old records of traditional music performed by Irish operatic tenors, she was drawn not only to the underlying beauty of the music itself, but also to the stories being told. As she began her career as a folk performer in the 1980s, she delighted as much in singing traditional ballads like "Fair Flower of Northumberland" as she did singing her own well-crafted songs about her love of the environment ("Requiem for the Giants"), social justice ("Reservations") and political ineptitude ("Too Stupid for Democracy"). What really grabbed the attention of her audiences, though, was her voice: a clear, rich soprano with power and range to spare, a voice that some felt matched or exceeded that of folk icon Joan Baez. By 1997, McGann had recorded four well-received solo albums on her own Dragonwing label as well as an album of Celtic and British Yule songs recorded under the band name Trilogy with her musical (and life) partner David K. and Cathy Miller. At the end of the century, McGann was still living in Calgary and touring extensively. ~ John Lupton