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More humor than ethnic

Caledonia to California
Caledonia to California
By Highland Way

Self-released: 2008

This review first appeared in the January 8, 2009 issue of the North County Times.

Escondido's Highland Way is one of the area's best-known (and certainly most active) Celtic bands. The quartet is led by lead singer Brian Caldwell, a native of Scotland (now living in Del Dios) – and while Caldwell has all the cultural authenticity in the world, he's also not one to let things ever get too serious.

And so the band's new album not only features traditional reels and jigs and a cover of Robert Burns, but also, on "Scotland the Brave Medley," riffs on the "Mission Impossible" theme, surf-rock anthem "Tequila," the theme from the Disneyland ride "Pirates of the Caribbean," Charlie Daniels' "The Devil Went Down to Georgia," and the theme from "The Addams Family" and "The Flintstones."

Good fun, that – but no more so than their cover of Dougie MacLean's contemporary Scottish number "Turning Away," nor the sentimental vocal duet of Caldwell and guitarist Heloise Love on "Black Is the Colour." Paul Castellanos (who doubles with Caldwell in the Celtic duo The Clachan Boys) is a tremendous fiddle player, and Richard Gordon Heinz adds low-end depth on bass and keyboards.

Rather than a museum piece of some long-lost ideal of Scotland and Ireland, Highland Way is a Celtic band that lives in the present – tongues firmly in cheek, the good humour balanced by their virtuosic playing and rich singing.