How Canada has kept Great Big Sea asecret for so long is anyone’s guess, but whether they like it or not,the secret is almost out. With the American release of their fourthCana-dian album, “Turn,” the Newfoundland-basedCeltic-folk-pop band is hitting the States in a big way, and it’s abouttime. If anyone can stop the wave of Britney Spears wannabes whodominate the airwaves, it just might be them.

Great Big Seacreates an energetic and upbeat fusion of traditional Newfoundland tuneswith sing-along pop-folk, performed with irresistible frat-boy charm.The traditional songs of their seafaring ancestors show the influence ofthe English, Irish, French and Scottish who settled the island. Theirrhythms, melodies and diverse instruments (including the bouzouki,mandolin, bodhran, accordion, penny whistle and fiddle) lend a specialflair to Great Big Sea’s original songs as well. The album’s mix oforiginal and reinterpreted traditional folk songs will be familiar toold fans, and a good introduction for newcomers, who will no doubt find”Turn” a refreshing change from the bland pop they arebombarded with.

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“Turn,” released in March, is GreatBig Sea’s second American release. If you like “Turn,” you’llwant to pick up their first, “Rant and Roar,” which featuressongs culled from the band’s Canadian releases to form an eclectic”best of” mix with Irish drinking songs, sea chanteys,beautiful ballads, rollicking stompers and an engaging cover of R.E.M.’s”End of the World.”

Many of the best songs on”Turn” are the original ones, and include the beautiful”Boston and St. John’s,” the vivid and upbeat”Margarita,” and especially “Consequence Free,” arousing, undeniably catchy song most teenagers can relate to (whodoesn’t wish that, just for one day, “the band just never ended -we could stay out late and we would never hear last call?”). InCanada, “Consequence Free” is a top 40-hit. It’s difficult toimagine hearing GBS sandwiched between Limp Bizkit and ChristinaAguilera.

“Turn” has gone platinum in Canada, which,of course, means nothing to most Americans. Yet Great Big Sea is onecase where American listeners benefit from having ignored theirneighbors to the North – they have been spared the burden ofpreconceived notions about what traditional Newfound-land music soundslike, and are oblivious to the Celtic music backlash following the trendwhich swept Canada a few years back. You don’t need a prepackaged imageto enjoy the music of Great Big Sea – the music sells itself. Theirenergetic and engaging live shows are one of their strong points. Luckyfor Americans, they will be touring the U.S. during 2000.