Rita's last album released prior to her passing. Saving Grace, is the iconic Canadian singer-songwriter's 24th release with all original material. Backed by a young group of musicians. Produced by long-time touring guitarist Chris Corrigan, except the last track, which was produced by Douglas September. Saving Grace paints an intimate portrait of one person's journey through life.
"Over the last number of years I have found myself living a reality of certain difficulties that have caused me many changes in my life as well as the way I see things now. Some of us experience these things as part of life and we move on in spite of it all. I feel this album has my journey in it and maybe yours as well.” - Rita MacNeil
It’s charming, it’s whimsical – fanciful and sentimental – it is Rita’s own labour of love – her only children’s album, Pocket Full of Dreams.
With three of the tracks dating back to the late 70’s, and the majority written in 1999, 12 of the 15 tracks sat untouched and roughly demoed until this year. Now brought to life, this very unique offering has something for the whole family.
Rita seamlessly segues between the happy and bouncy lyrics of “Billy Goat Loose in My Soup”, “Cardboard Box” and “Ducky Boots”, to the very hip, catchy and child friendly rap styled “Halloween”. There’s the swinging jive of “Several Cats”, the soft lullaby “One by One”, the Celtic flavoured “Rain” featuring bagpipes by Rita’s nephew and the award winning singer’s signature styled lament, “Pocket Full of Dreams”.
Cleverly interspersed on a number of tracks are melody lines from classic children’s songs and bringing it all together are the delicate and endearing voices of the Children’s Choir from Sydney River Elementary School.
There are three covers on the 15 track CD – Eileen Burton’s #1 hit “If I Knew You Were Comin’ I’d’ve Baked A Cake”, “Land of a Thousand Dances” written by R&B artist Chris Kenner, but made famous by Wilson Picket in 1966, and Roger Miller’s 1967 hit, “Walking in the Sunshine”.
All told it is a truly delightful collection of songs for a child, a parent or a grandparent. As a mother and now a grandmother, Rita MacNeil’s “Pocket Full of Dreams” is a treasure chest of songs that has finally been opened and shared. The production is brilliant, the instrumentation playful and Rita’s warm delivery in keeping with the sound that has endeared her to countless over the course of her 33 year-plus career.
"While growing up in Cape Breton, my mother was a great encouragement when it came to my singing. Both mom and dad had favourite songs that they really enjoyed and many times after school they would ask me to sing these songs. Being shy I was often reluctant, but with a little coaxing I would oblige. I had to sing out of their view, so the hallway was a good place to go where I didn’t feel so scared.
This CD is a collection of some of those songs and while recording it, I had lots of flashbacks. My father particularly liked "A Rusty Old Halo" and it always brought a smile to his face. My mother’s tastes were very eclectic. The first time she heard "From a Jack to a King" on the radio, she waited for me to come home from school and together we listened until they finally played it again - oh my, her eyes were dancing.
Mom died of cancer in 1972 and when she was in hospital, I sang her the "Green Green Grass of Home", one of her favourites. Dad died years later, but memories of them both I relived again while recording this CD.
Music has been a big part of my life and they were the inspiration. I hope when you listen to this CD, my friends some fond memories will return hearing these great old tunes once again." - Rita MacNeil
Written as she entered her 60th year, Blue Roses, was her 20th release and perhaps her most complete body of work to date.
Blue Roses offers an honest and forthright collection of songs penned from experience. The gentle piano based ‘Floating’ takes us to summers spent on the porch of her beloved home in Cape Breton sharing the heady feelings of first love while ‘Time and Again’ reminds us that dreams really do come true. There’s the New Orleans blue’s style intro of ‘Memphis’, lamenting the hopelessness of lost love; two songs ‘You Can’t Go Home Again’ and ‘Knowing When to Go’- that were written in the late 80’s at the beginning of Rita’s career, and the country tinged title track, and the finality of goodbyes - Blue Roses is a diverse journey through life.
“Music is timeless and ageless,” noted the legendary singer, ‘the passion I feel for what I do can’t be put aside with a number and a year. It is a big part of my life – the concerts, the touring, the letters and the joy the audience gives back to me when the music touches a chord with them.”
In many ways it was this realization that brought about ‘Please Believe Me’, a signature song on the album. Life is full of second chances and when you finally find your purpose there is a wonderful peace that envelops you and stays with you through the inevitable ups and downs.
Blue Roses was recorded off the studio floor with Rita’s road family, making it a unique and very intimate experience. It’s the turn of a phrase, the warmth of a melody and the heartfelt passion in the voice. Blue Roses marks a personal and professional milestone– it’s a celebration of love, life and experience.