“Songs From Before” by Fionnuala Sherry and Other Music.

“Songs From Before” by Fionnuala Sherry and Other Music.

Secret Garden’s Fionnuala Sherry stands on her own in Songs from Before

That distinctive  John Edward Betts violin from 1790 is Fionnuala Sherry’s instrument of choice in both live and studio sessions. And like her choice of instrument, the style of most songs in her album Songs from Before (released in 2011 by  Hearts of Space Records) never stray far away from  the subtle mood of Secret Garden-with notable exceptions in some tracks. I am talking about the stunning rhythmic drum work in Lark in Clear Air and the experimental/ambient style of My Lagan Love. screen-shot-2017-02-28-at-8-19-30-pm

Songs from Before is clearly a nod to Irish traditional music but with modern arrangements, and sans the neo-classical style of Secret Garden. Perhaps there will always be challenges in projects like this one. Will be some of the parts be any lesser than the whole? Will her musical efforts get noticed away from the shadow of million-selling duo that are Secret Garden? But many have ventured this path: Lisa Gerrard of Dead Can Dance, Moya Brennan of Clannad and even Karen Matheson of Capercaillie, among others. I think her strength is in her classical discipline. Couple that with her pop sensibilities and you get a modern album that is also timeless due to its traditional spirit.

I remember one early morning while riding the bike. I was playing this album through my bluetooth speaker attached to my messenger bag. I stopped by a bridge just in time for Lark in Clear Air to play. And it was quite a musical moment.The sweeping view and the stately sound seemed to have created that synergy which was spiritual. I understand that her music is always rooted in nature. There is something organic and soothing about her style. It’s like being inclosed in a thick foliage. It is a private moment keeping the world at bay. Even if it’s just for a span of forty minutes. And it is good enough.

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Have you gotten your own copy of Canvas by Moya Brennan? Yes it is out now. Here’s the editorial review via Amazon:

CANVAS is the ninth solo album from the First Lady of Celtic Music, Moya Brennan. This collection of original songs is steeped in her Celtic roots – Moya comes from Donegal in the NW of Ireland. But, more than ever before, the album has a contemporary twist due in no small part to her co-writers/ composers, daughter Aisling and son Paul, both in their early twenties with strong ambient electronica and contemporary singer-songwriter influences. Moya s haunting, ethereal, vocals have been her unique hallmark both in her years with Celtic music pioneers, Clannad, and in her own solo recordings and film work. The album contains some songs in Moya s native language, Gaeilge, while other songs celebrate, for instance, elemental/environmental themes or lament the child victims of needless war and conflict. Musically the record unveils a spectrum from poignant, fragile beauty through to dramatic, symphonic peaks. The album title comes from Moya s rediscovery of her love for painting. She painted the cover and art featured throughout the CD package. Canvas combines the simplicity, depth and beauty of the extraordinary skills which makes Moya unique in her field. Grammy award winner Moya has sung on most of the world s great stages and has collaborated with many notable artists including Bono, The Chieftains, Bruce Hornsby and Robert Plant. Among her movie credits is her collaboration (and co-writing of the end title song) with Hans Zimmer on King Arthur.

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For Drum Fannatics!

This is interesting! As a percussion enthusiast this is a great find for me. Big thanks to Matthew Bell for pointing this out to me. More about this project from Contemporary Bodhran:

www.kitchatham.com
www.contemporarybodhran.com
Kit Chatham, Matthew Bell, Alex Kuldell, Josh Dukes, and Ryan Mullins play a variety of percussion and stringed instruments in a Genre-defying instrumental mashup. Features Mandolin, Banjo, Highland Bagpipes, Jaw Harp, Irish Flute, Guitar, Kanjira, Pipe Band Snare, Rope Tension Bass Drum, Rope Tension Snare Drum, Bodhrán, tabla, drumset, and programmed percussion.

There you have it for now.

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John Breen taps into The Source with Origins

John Breen taps into The Source with Origins

John Breen- Origins CD

John Breen- Origins CD

John Breen is a traditional Irish folk artist from Arklow. Origins is his third studio album under Emphasis records. 

Excitement was in the air when I heard that Irish crooner John Breen was putting up a new album called Origins, last year. I know his music. There is consistency that marks his previous albums. There is certainty in his vision resulting in an album that’s solid and artfully crafted. There is no fumbling around with other styles. Instead, he goes for the things he know by heart, and good at. If you pick up any John Breen album, you always feel that sense of coming home, not just in a geographical but in a spiritual sense as well.

Maturity marks his new album. I admire his humility, in a sense that he is aware of being a vessel to something bigger himself. I Still Believe is his current single. It is a stirring ballad with a beautiful mandolin solo in a mesh of other instruments. “There will be moments of fall from grace…” His ability to capture the essence of life in a line or two, is powerful. Great musicians backed this recording. It’s a cornucopia of instrumental richness supporting his beautiful voice.

I think what makes him stand out from other singer/songwriters of his time is the truth in his songs. He really lives what he sings about. He now works with people who are undergoing challenging behaviors and I think that has deepened his sense of humility and sympathy to the human condition. And we all need that in this time of apathy. When people spend more time with their mobile phones, computers or tweets, it’s refreshing to just curl up in your bed and listen to songs that remind you of what it’s like when you’re a child and everything’s safe and beautiful.

Origins is a good vocal album. The jolly Amber Tresses opens then album in which he shines in his mastery of traditional styles. Meant to Be slows us down a bit with its introspective mood and beautiful tin whistle solo. Cup of Sorrow is another lively track which gives way to the gentle and flowing I Still Believe which I mentioned earlier. I’ll Be No Stranger is another salvo of Bluegrass fireworks with amazing duet between Breen and Stevie Hawkins. Instrumentalist Tim Crouch showcases his virtuosity in most of the tracks in Origins. I admire the angelic voice of Kyla Cassidy as she provides backing vocals in various tracks,while the rest of musicians are all remarkable in their artistry in the finest degree.

Angel In The Air is a lullaby that reminds me of what mothers sang to their children in the old days to send them to sleep. I Loved You Better Than You Know is a love song with another sweep of instrumental beauty. A lament I’LL Remember You Love In My Prayers mirrors the gentleness of Meant To Be and I Still Believe. Briscoe’s Darlin’ in an instrumental that bumps the pace a bit in a traditional style. The thread extends to What I Said Ain’t What You Thought I Mean which is humorous! Been proves  that he can be funny. I Only Wish You Well closes the album. A very fitting track which summarizes the overall atmosphere of Origins. There is wisdom that comes in every journey. I think after creating three albums, the artist has an overall idea what his purpose is..

I think  we are fortunate to have an artist like John Breen in this lifetime. The honesty of his songs cuts to the core of our souls. I feel purified after the last track. Origins is a must-have album for humanity. Get it upon its official release on February 23.

Official video for “I Still Believe”, the 1st single from the forthcoming album by John Breen titled “Origins”. Download the single now direct from Emphasis Records: http://www.emphasisrecords.com/johnbr…

iTunes: https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/i-s…

Amazon MP3: http://amzn.to/1w0DWVG

“I Still Believe” is a contemporary Folk/Celtic ballad that lyrically hints at life’s struggles, yet the mood is uplifting in recognition of the power in believing. Excellent production, melodically brilliant, smooth vocals.

Song and Video Credits:
Artist: John Breen
Title: I Still Believe
Writers: C. Hannon – T.S. Hawkins – T. Crouch
Record Producer: Stevie Hawkins
Recording Engineers: Stevie Hawkins and Tim Crouch
Label: Emphasis Records
Publisher: Hannon Hawkins Music, BMI
Photography: Aoife Kavanagh
Video Editor/Director: Stevie Hawkins – ShhhMedia http://www.shhhmedia.net
Artist Website: http://www.johnbreenmusic.com

Lyrics:

I STILL BELIEVE

There will be storms, wind and rain
Life will falter, love will fail
There’ll be times the crashing wake
Washes away
Everything in its way
I Still Believe

There will be moments of fall from grace
A passing glance, a saving face
Sometimes a feeling undefined
That catches flight
And the heart will know it’s time
I Still Believe

There will be spring, summer and fall
Arctic winds will come to call
Grades of trial, a bridge of strife
For this is life
But throughout it all
I Still Believe

© 2014 Emphasis Records

Musician Credits:
John Breen: Vocal
Tim Crouch: Fiddle, Mandolin, Acoustic Guitar, Acoustic Bass, Banjo, Djembe
Sara Burke: Celtic Harp
Eamonn Byrne: Irish Tin Whistle
Kyla Cassidy: Background Vocals
Stevie Hawkins: Percussion, Background Vocals

http://www.johnbreenmusic.com/

https://www.facebook.com/JohnBreenMusic?fref=ts

Two New Albums by Allison Crowe

Two New Albums by Allison Crowe

Souling

Album description/liner notes:

Allison Crowe’s gorgeous voice brings tidings of comfort and joy with “Souling” – her 11th full album release.

The artist, one of our greatest living musicians, singer-songwriters and performers, has always created authentic music.

With this newest song set her voice is heard wholly a cappella.

The songs themselves have a purity of expression – a 21st century take on music of faith and spirit – sounds and themes aired by carollers and soulers of old.

I am listening to Souling by Allison Crowe. It is a holiday album from the pretty Canadian singer/songwriter. What makes it different from her other albums(or any holiday albums from any artist ) is that it’s recorded entirely in a cappella.

It reminds me of many genres including old African-American spirituals. Her singing style is unique as at times there something pop about it , in other times , it is predominantly a soulful voice. But mostly her leanings are in Folk music.
Souling  as I mentioned is a holiday album and everyone who drops by at home will hear this  being played every now and then. It doesn’t sound intrusive. But it is also not something you can ignore because her interpretations of traditional materials are  like no other.That is why it is hard to compare her to other artists. Sure, guitar and piano are her prime instruments but her singing has an earthly and sensual quality. More bluesy than folk but more folk than rock.
There are 11 tracks in Souling. When you listen to each song, you will notice the scales she is using in her arrangements. This is the style I am talking about, which makes her renditions interesting. The fact that she has a strong soulful voice, makes Souling a perfect vehicle for her unique artistry.
I have my personal favorites including The Holly and the Ivy. Her background vocal harmonies remind me of water currents running underneath the sparkling surface. Her arrangements are undeniably exquisite. With the abundance of airy fairy artists out there, Allison Crowe has a style that sets her apart from the rest of her Canadian peers. Coupled with her appearance that reminds me of Pre-Raphaelite women, she creates a compelling combination of the earthly and the spiritual.
Wassail Song is another favorite as her background vocals capture the atmosphere of a chapel. Souling is an album that redefines the usual traditional holiday tunes and also about how they are being rendered. It is in this rendition that an artist tells the listeners her true identity. It’s beautiful and fresh, something that can start the test of time and seasons.
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Newfoundland Vinyl II

Album description/liner notes:

As with following William Blake’s roadmap to eternity’s sunrise, fans of musician Allison Crowe know to kiss “the joy as it flies.”

Right now, Crowe is soaring – bringing her “Tidings” tour from Canada’s Pacific coast to its Atlantic shores. And she’s on the wing with two new albums: ‘Souling”, an a breath-taking cappella collection of traditional Christmas carols, and “Newfoundland Vinyl II”, a many-splendoured music mix – songs of, and from, her island home.

  After listening to the atmospheric and sparely populated world of Souling, Newfoundland Vinyl II is like stepping into the familiar terrain that Allison Crowe is known for. As always, her guitar sparkles with energy and joy.
I am amazed that she is able to court listeners from all genres. Her forte has always been acoustic playing. There is something rugged and simple about Newfoundland Vinyl II. No wonder she made a cameo appearance in Zack Snyder’s Man of Steel last year. Yes she is in the movie(as a brunette singer with a guitar) performing in this little bar before Clark Kent gets harassed by guy who gets his truck smashed up like a pancake.
The penchant for a cappella and vocal harmonies are still there. And  she is a great story-teller. Listen to the poignant ballad The Water Witch and tell me if you are not moved by the emotions underneath the seemingly simply arrangement. She incorporates a range of materials and subjects in her songwriting. Perhaps this has something to do with her independent way of making music. I learned interesting bits in my research

“After learning how the mainstream recording industry operates, inspired by the examples of Ani DiFranco and Loreena McKennitt, and Creative Commons licensing opening new avenues for musicians, Allison Crowe launched her own record label, Rubenesque Records Ltd. The label was incorporated in 2001 and began operations with the release of an EP in 2003. She has created and released the following albums independently.”

Simplicity, leisure and sensuality are all found in Newfoundland Vinyl II.There are also different instruments- both traditional and modern , appearing in each song. One  example is the song Out from St. Leonard’s. The instruments play with each other in a call and response fashion.

I think every album  of an artist is a ‘love letter’ to the world. It is a message in a bottle. And there is power in something when you express it and that expression took time and effort. Because you can fake things through flourishes and production. But you could never fake the truth behind the songs. And I guess this is what The Newfoundland Vinyl II is about. It is about singing from the heart. It is about singing the songs of people that have been passed from every generation. The enduring sentiments in all these songs make them powerful and no matter how you sing them – you sing the toils, pains,heartbreak and joy of souls across time.