Not since the breakup of Touchstone more than 15 years ago has the Triangle produced a Celtic ensemble as powerful as Cucanandy. Since forming in 1998, the group has performed at the Kennedy Center and Spoleto, while touring such Celtic music hotbeds as Scotland, the Shetland Islands, and the Atlantic coast of Canada. Contented Minds
is their first record as a four piece--they've added Jason Cade, who spent two years studying fiddle in Ireland--and shows a steadily maturing and unusually talented band. Although Contented Minds displays Cucanandy's exquisite melodic sensibility, especially through Cade's fiddling and Stephanie Johnson's delicious vocals, the band's great gift lies in their rich rhythmic attack. Johnson's guitar work and Mike Casey's distinguished lap dulcimer playing combine with the footwork of Malke Rosenfeld, a veteran of the London cast of Riverdance
, to provide a powerhouse platform for each reel and jig. Although the record again contains some wonderful ballads and mid-tempo pieces, Contented Minds
delivers an even more driving, uptempo and diverse collection of tunes than Cucanandy's 1999 debut, He Didn't Dance
. This is American Celtic music at its best.