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While this website has become known for its in-depth album and concert reviews, the digest contains concise comments on new music our audience has either recommended or might enjoy. Click on album covers or label names for links to further information. Click on the title to view the article.

Content
Alla Kadysh
Big Sky
Faire Celts
Tara MacLean
Over The Rhine
Lorenza Ponce
Ginger MacKenzie
Penny Framstad
Kate Barclay
Michelle Tumes
Altan

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Instrumental Digest
 
Alla Kadysh Perichole's Sincerity Theory CD Cover
Image © 1996 Alla Kadysh 
 

(01 April 2000) Currently living in Canada, Alla Kadysh has a sultry Russian accent and a songwriting style that embraces jazz, folk, and ethereal World Beat. Her eleven-track debut album, Perichole's Sincerity Theory (SOCOM (Canada) 1996) is attracting attention from radio stations and the print media alike because of its unusual combination of styles. The eclectic singer described by CMW media as "Loreena McKennitt meets Sarah McLachlan with a dose of Marlene Deitrich." Kadysh has sung back-up for well-known Russian recording artists and toured the European continent with various shows as well as with her own band. She also works as a session singer, writes music for films and television and performs in different venues in and around Toronto. Further information about the artist and the album's title are available at the artist's website.

The vocally laced album features heartfelt songs sung in a contemporary and worldly style with stunning vocals, soaring at times to incredible heights, primarily accompanied by light instrumentation. Alla's extensive vocal range illustrated as the album progresses. We asked Alla about artists that may have influenced her songwriting. "I don't think I'm influenced by any particular artist when writing, but styles do influence me. For example, I was listening to different Celtic bands before I wrote "Wrong Century," so it has some Celtic flavor, and I was into French chanson for "Bear with Me". She is always craving something new and interesting and consequently there isn't an artist or band she listens to all the time. She told us, "I could listen to a song I like 56 times a day for three weeks in a row and never come back to it again. The CD changer in my car holds 6 CDs. I can tell you what's in it at this moment: Portugese Fado singer Misia Sting's "Fields of Gold"; Sholeh Haghighat—traditional Persian music with amazing vocals; Astor Piazzola "Songs From The Heavy Heart"; French band "Paris Combo"; and a women of jazz compilation featuring Sarah Vaughan, Dinah Washington, Rita Reys and Nina Simone." Alla also travels with a tape of whatever music she's rehearsing at the time.

Contrasts are evident ranging from the upbeat contemporary opening track "Woman From The Wrong Century" to the swinging jazz influences of "Dummy Babe" and the worldly textures of multi-tracked "Soul Of The Perichole." "Nothing's Wrong" and "Bear With Me" hav a certain cabaret flare while "So Pretty," with its sensitive vocal part, resembles a quiet torch ballad. Alla plays piano and keyboards and is accompanied by Wes Wraggett (electric and acoustic guitars, keyboards and samples) and other supporting musicians.

Alla had couple of years of training in Musical Theatre college and some private vocal tutoring. Her style developed from stage experience. Alla's career is her music; She told us, "I'm a proffessional performer. I do everything from the studio side singing to private partys." She continued, explaining about her live performances, "I play almost every Friday in different Chapters and Indigo bookstores around Toronto, some clubs and restaurants, festivals if I'm lucky and whatever other gigs I can get."

She told about the songwriting process, "The melody and the story idea come first, it is never a problem. Then there's the long process of fitting the lyrics into the melody where I'm cursing my English every 20 seconds and sleep with the Oxford [dictionary] under the pillow, unless I'm writing the Russian song in which case it just flies." SHhe told us about the studios she uses in different stages. "Some songs I arrange myself and record bits and pieces at my home studio, some i have no idea what to do with. Wes Wraggett, composer and musician, arranged few songs on my CD. Then everything goes into professional studio and gets recorded with live musicians."

Artwork for the album includes lovely photographs illustrating Alla's personal beauty. She told us, "the pictures were done by a professional photographer, and my step daughter Julia did all the computer graphics for both the album and the website." When asked about the web, she told us, "The internet has been a great promotional tool so far. I used to call people trying to book the gig or get some press and they would invariably ask, 'Alla ... who?' Now I tell them, 'You know, one of my songs is No. 1 in Canada on a world fusion chart of MP3.com.' This usually gets me some attention. Not to mention the convinience of being able to send your demo over the net."

You can hear Alla's songs at mp3.com and order her album Perichole's Sincerity Theory at amazon.com here. Certainly worth further exploration, the album is vocally stimulating and a relaxing listen!

 
Big Sky Volume 1: The Source CD Cover
Image © 2000 Survival Records Ltd 
 

(18 March 2000) The Celtic Groove Foundation is comprised of Charlie McKerron and John Saich, core members of Scotland's Capercaillie (review), well-known as pioneers in progressive Celtic music. In collaboration with Charlie's cousin Laura McKerron, their debut project Big Sky has released a debut album entitled Volume 1: The Source (Survival (UK) SURCD024, 2000). Certain to appeal to the band's followers and fans of Celtic-pop crossover bands like The Corrs (review), Big Sky produce a big alternative sound spanning a vast range of styles from Celtic folk through bluegrass and into highly accessible almost-pop. This is not traditional music but it is equally dance oriented! Soundbites are available at the project's website.

Lush contemporary instrumentals are balanced with the sensuous, honeyed-style vocals of Laura McKerron whose voice can best be compared to Andrea Coor in many of the album's tracks but especially in the highly accessible ballad "Angel." The opening track "Golden Hair" is classic Celtic-pop fusion with lots of vocal harmony, traditional fiddle and lush contemporary instrumentation effectively blended together.

Charlie McKerron's Celtic-style fiddle join contemporary instrumental arrangements and Laura's tremendous vocal harmonies in "Delicious," a tremendously accessible song that is as much Corrs as it is Wilson Phillips. Charlie is also credited with guitar, keyboards and vocal contributions sharing these with John Saich who is uniquely credited with the album's bass parts. "Millenium Girl" combines an almost bluegrass sound with highly accessible dance-oriented rock and roll with harmonica, banjo, light harmonious vocals, rocking guitar and crisp percussion.

Celtic dance flavours drive the album's instrumental riffs ("New Sardinia," the worldly and multi-cultural "Las Temporadas," "Biro Guiro") and feature work of a vast bevy of established contributing artists: Michael McGoldrick (flute/Whistle), James McIntosh (drums), Ellidh Shaw (fiddle), David Robinson (percussion), Frasier Spiers (harmonica), Phil Bancroft (sax) and Donald Shaw (accordian), Mark Duff (whistle/bodhran/wind synth), Gary Finlayson (banjo), Tom Bancroft (drums), Simon Bradley (fiddle), Ian McLeod (mandolin) and Chris Stout (fiddle). Additional backing vocals are contributed by Sandra McKay and Brian McAlpine. The "Biro Guiro" and "Las Temporadas" instrumentals are especially notable.

"Fly So High" continues in a vein similar to "Delicious" with wonderful vocal harmonies yet alludes to Martine McCutcheon with its more contemporary dance beat and deeper lead vocal part. The album concludes with the slow, sensuous and contemporary tune "Ambient Beach," with a texture that the title suggests, world themes, and evocative vocals drawing some similarity to the themes introduced earlier in "Las Temporadas." The band have done some touring in Scotland but we think a double bill consisting of Capercaillie and Big Sky would be a wonderful live performance!

You can obtain Big Sky's new nine-track album at amazon.co.uk here or via amazon.com (import) here. Tremendous in every respect, this album is absolutely worth a journey-a must listen!

 
http://www.narada.com/images/AlbumPage/FaireCelts/FaireCelts.htm
Image © 2000 Narada Productions, Inc. 
 

(05 March 2000) The best compilation of Celtic female vocal artists ever to be released is a masterwork entitled Faire Celts A Woman's Voice (Narada World (USA), 72438-48733-2-5, 2000). The album contains thirteen traditionally based tracks by as many top female vocalists, several presently featured within Musical Discoveries. An especially nice booklet accompanies the compact disc with lyrics, background and full details of each individual recording.

Sinéad O'Connor opens the album with her own stunning mid-register rendition of "He Moved Through The Fair" sung almost a capella over very lightly arranged instrumentation. Eimear Quinn's Eurovision 1996 winner "The Voice," previously only released in Ireland as a single commemorating the event, follows with her stunning soprano vocals over the a lush yet traditionally steeped orchestral arrangement. From Capercaillie's latest album Beautiful Wasteland (concert review), Karen Matheson sings the progressive Celtic number "Hebridean Hale-Bobb" in her unique mouth-music style. Next, Mary McLaughlin sings a lovely ballad written by Elenor McEvoy entitled "A Woman's Heart" over light string based instrumentation; multi-tracked vocals in the chorus add a lovely texture to the arrangement. The wide ranging interests and contrasting vocal melodies of Canadian artists Keri Steel and Nina Loretto of Imaginary Heaven are evident in the worldly duet "Can You See The Border." Jenny Schaub's superb vocals lead West Of Eden in a stunning progressive Celtic ballad entitled "This Piece Of Earth," a highlight of this magnificent album.

Altan and Mairéad Ní Mhaonaigh perform the traditionally based and upbeat folk tune "Molly Na gCuach Ní Chuilleanáin." A review of Altan's latest album Another Sky will be posted at Musical Discoveries later this month. American Connie Dover sends her vocals soaring in the sensitive ballad "I Am Going To The West" over the lightest keyboard and guitar instrumentation. Cathy Jordan's sweet yet deeper vocals contrast those before her in the song "Érin Grá mo Chroí" performed with lovely traditional string and other light accompaniment from her band Dervish. Cathy is regarded as one of the finest traditional singers in Ireland today. Rich production and a highly accessible Euro-pop arrangement make Talitha MacKenzie's "Hoireann O" from her Solas album one of the most enjoyable songs of this compilation.

Kim Robertson's whispy "Ferry Me Across The Water" is a precious ballad sung over her Celtic harp. A lovely whistle echoes the melody to vocalisations of Christina Rosetti's lyrics (Rosetti also wrote the famous hymn "In The Bleak Mid-Winter" performed by Annie Haslam and Michael Dunford as Nevada in 1980). Continuing with harp and whistle, Mae McKenna's stunning ballad "Dream Lover" is a testament to the singer's vocal breadth and energy. The song is from Mae's recently re-issued album Mirage and Reality (review). The album concludes with a contemporary orchestral arrangement of an otherwise traditional Gaelic medley by Sandra MacKay and Tannas entitled "Thoir Dhohm Do Lamh/Ruidhleadh Na Coilich Dhubha." Multitracked vocal work, whistle and tremendous instrumentals contribute to the track's rich sound.

You can order the Faire Celts compilation at amazon.com here. This thirteen-track compilation is the finest ensemble of tracks by Celtic-inpsired female vocalists. The album should be further explored as a collection and to introduce listeners to artists that they may not have yet discovered. Highly recommended to a broad audience of female vocal enthusiasts, this album is absolutely worth a cross country journey—a must listen in every respect!

 
Tara MacLean Passenger CD Cover
Image © Nettwerk Productions 2000

Tara MacLean
Image © Nettwerk Productions 2000
 

(05 March 2000) Singer songwriter Tara McLean's second album entitled Passenger (Nettwerk (Canada) 0 76700 30144 2 7, 2000) is comprised of twelve well produced vocally intense alternative, yet highly accessible, tracks. An especially lovely booklet accompanies the compact disc. Aged 26 at this writing, Tara MacLean was born on Prince Edward Island, in Canada's eastern Maritime Provinces. She lived until the age of four in a log cabin in the woods with her monther, an accomplished actress and her Father, a country and gospel singer songwriter. Tara was discovered while singing with friends on the top deck of a ferry boat en route to a tiny island off the coast of British Columbia by Nettwerk Records staffers. After taping a few songs for them, Tara was signed to the label, and her debut eleven-track album Silence (review) was released in 1996. MacLean toured for two straight years with Paula Cole, Ron Sexsmith, and the Barenaked Ladies. She has carved her own style and astounded audiences with her honesty and unforgettable voice and was named Best New Solo Artist at the Canadian Radio Music Awards in 1997.

From her website, "The unending cycle of Human in nature, myth, unity and chaos and the elements that make up life are some of the subjects in Tara's new songs, which weave shimmering organic melodies with an undulating trip-hop undertow, a musical correlative to feeding the soul without ignoring the flesh." The album was produced in New Orleans by Malcolm Burn and Bill Bell. The lush arrangements include piano, guitar, other strings including violin, viola and cello, as well as trumpet, drums and percussion. Tara's soft and sweet vocal work is stunning throughout with soaring excursions showing tremendous power and range.

A ballad that develops into a soft rock tune entitled "Jericho" opens the album. The moving ballad "Dry Land" is a certain highlight of the album and among several tracks on the album with a similar style. The chorus has a lovely hook demonstrating the accessibility of MacLean's music and powerful voice. The soft rock "If I Fall" and ballads "Jordan" and "Blinded" exhibit rich string arrangements that support the stunning vocal work. "Reach," "Settling" and the title track "Passenger" are sung most evocatively, in a style suitable for Dawson's Creek, Roswell and other popular WB television shows, with arrangements building to powerful proportions in the songs' choruses. The soft and melodic ballad "La Tempête" is sung emotionally in French with very light instrumentation.

The album's dancier tunes include "Divided" and "Poor Boy" with their pop-oriented Britney Spears-like trip-hop beat and whispy vocals. The "Higher" is an accessible soft rock track with Celtic whistle that echoes the memorable vocal melody, reminiscent in spots of of a much earlier Judy Collins track ("Both Sides Now"). Soaring vocalise join rocking world beat rhythms in a stunning untitled bonus track that closes the album (listen for the "Scarborough Fair" melody within it).

You can order Tara MacLean's Passenger for a bargain price at amazon.com here or her debut album Silence here. A tremendous follow up album by a talented singer songwriter, Tara Maclean's Passenger is certainly worthy of further exploration and a journey—a very nice listen!

 
Over The Rhine Good Dog Bad Dog CD Cover
Image © 2000 Narada Productions, Inc. 
 

(05 March 2000) Over The Rhine has released eight albums, beginning their 1990 debut Till We Have Faces, with an evolving style varying from the blistering rock numbers through almost-country, blues, and soft emotive ballads with the common elements being Karin Bergquist's stunning emotive and smooth vocals and Linford Detweiler's song writing and instrumental performances. The latest release by the band is a reissue of their fourth album (1996) Good Dog Bad Dog on Virgin Back Porch / Narada (USA) (Cat No 72438-48787-2-6, 2000). The 12-track digital remaster includes a previously unreleased song entitled "It's Never Quite What It Seems" but omits "A Gospel Number" and "Jack's Valentine" from the original pressing. Soundbites are available at the artists' and label's websites.

Whereas some of the band's earlier albums had rocking numbers, the Good Dog Bad Dog remaster is primarily a Karin Bergquist vocals album. As such it is full of soft ballads with emotive vocalisation and light instrumentation, primarily guitar and keyboard. Strings (cello and violin primarily) add to the texture of several songs ("Everyman's Daughter" and "Happy To Be So"), and especially in the instrumental "I Will Not Eat The Darkness." The album's most moving songs include "All I Need Is Everything," a soft rock tune with light percussion and a wonderful string arrangement, and the jazzy and bluesy "Faithfully Dangerous." The heartfelt soaring vocals in "The Seahorse" sung with only acoustic guitar are gorgeous. The tremendous acoustic guitar instrumental "Willoughby" demonstrates one of Ric Hordinski's talents. The previously unreleased track "It's Never Quite What It Seems" is another slow ballad sung softly and sensually with vocals soaring at times above the light guitar and piano instrumental arrangement.

Karin sings most comfortably mid-register and excursions upwards add to the vocal excitement of the album. Her voice is soft and sweet, highly evocative and sensual. A very bright talent, the other Over The Rhine recordings are equally recommended to alternative rock enthusiasts, however their Till We Have Faces and Eve albums are still considered the most exciting albums byt the band. Further information about this latest release is available at this Narada page.

You can order Over The Rhine's album Good Dog Bad Dog at amazon.com here. Over The Rhine's recordings are worth further exploration if for no other reason to hear Karin Bergquist sing. A tremendous vocal talent in all respects, this new album should be investigated. It is a very nice listen!

 
Lorenza Ponce Self-Titled CD Cover
Image © 1999 LMP Records 
 

(05 March 2000) Released after touring with Kitaro as his lead violinist, Lorenza Ponce's debut album Imago (Angel (USA) 7243 5 555568 2 0, 1997) was widely acclaimed as an instrumental and vocal masterwork (see Celestial Voices review ©1998-2000 Graham Lubin). Since releasing Imago, New York-based Lorenza Ponce has toured on Sheryl Crow's 1999 Globe Sessions tour and was a featured violinist and vocalist for new age megastar John Tesh's One World 1999 tour. Ponce has also performed alongside Stevie Nicks, Deborah Harry and did session work for Tricky, Jon Anderson (Yes), Siverchair and Ben Folds Five as well as those she has toured with. Lorenza's second, self-titled album (LMP Records (USA) LMP 0101, 1999) has pulsing world beats, exotic instrumentation and has culled its inspiration from her travels around the world. It is indeed a look straight into the heart of a mesmerizing artist.

The new album is comprised of eight stunning tracks with lush worldly or contemporary classical crossover arrangements and feature moody evocative and sensual vocals. Asian and Middle Eastern themes derived from strings and percussion are combined with contemporary electronic sounds to create a highly memorable soundscape. Most of the album's tracks are produced by Lorenza with Floyd Fisher. Five of the tracks sport vocals while the remaining three are purely instrumental. The percussion, vocals and strings are introduced in the album's opening track "Deeply" solos for each illustrate the virtuosity of the individual performances.

Lorenza's vocals carry the song "Saved" supported by a light, worldly instrumental arrangement. Multi-tracking in the chorus adds an Enya-like texture to the sound. "The Vision" is an especially worldly instrumental with supporting vocalise to add texture. The violn work is gorgeous, naturally! "Ruby" has stunning vocal work, sharp worldly percussion and a tremendous string arrangement that contribute to the overall texture of the track. "Into The Daylight" is written, performed and was produced by Lorenza. Sensitive vocals and a more pronounced violin arrangement with uptempo percussion contribute to the accessibility of the song.

Lorenza's voilin virtuosity is the feature attraction in the lovely ballad-paced instrumental "Can You Hear Me" which like the track that follows moves away from the earlier world sound of the album. She continues into the intro of "The Gift" where her vocals resume. A soft, sensitive, multi-tracked ballad, the song features stunning vocal work and equally soft violin rich instrumental arrangements. In the album's lovely classical contemporary crossover closing track, "Beloved," multi-tracked strings seem to share a melody similar to that from Mark Snow's "Suite from the X-Files" (review).

Lorenza Ponce's self-titled album features world tunes, sensitive ballads and classical contemporary crossover tracks certain to please a broad audience. Checkout a soundbite at Lorenza's mp3.com website. With vocal and instrumental virtuousity including spellbinding violin performances, her new album is worth extensive exploration, a long distance journey for sure—a must listen!

 
Ginger MacKenzie Kismet CD Cover
Image © 1999 Earthnoise Records 
 

(05 March 2000) Singer songwriter Ginger MacKenzie's second album Kismet (Earthnoise (USA) EN33-80465-2, 1999) follows a debut entitled Earthbound (Earthnoise (USA), 1998)—now available exclusively through her mp3.com website. An album of live songs entitled Live At The Cactus is also available there. Like her debut, the new album is a mosaic of original songs ranging in styles from uptempo alternative pop numbers through blues and country to soft heartfelt ballads. MacKenzie hails from Austin, Texas where she has become a household name in just a few short months. She won fourteen songwriting awards and her songs have received significant local airplay. A full biography is available at her website.

The opening number from the ten-track Kismet album has been most widely played and is being used in a forthcoming Mirimax film. Vocally lovely, sung sweet—Rikki Lee Jones style—and with feeling, it is a highly accessible folk rock song with obvious mass appeal. String loops at the introduction to the dancier trip-hop-oriented, percussive "Lord" provide a slight industrial texture, reminscent of Single Gun Theory, while Ginger's vocal excursions and expressiveness are again more accessible. "Love Is Hell" is an example of the album's soft alternative rock songs with its sweet vocals and balanced guitar, bass and light percussion.

"Conditional" is a jazz blues crossover track with very light instrumentation and almost spoken vocals. "Whole Heart" is a bluesy ballad, featuring a broad range of vocals soaring passages that add texture during the bridge. The rock-country crossover songs "I Believe In Love" and "I Can Feel My Heart" feature the widest vocal excursions on the album. MacKenzie's most likely bids for Dawson's Creek and other popular television series music are the lovely heartfelt soft rock "Standing Still" and ballad "I'm Not Leaving You." The album closes with "Surface Of Your Soul" which most fully illustrates the full range, power and sheer energy of Ginger MacKenzie's vocal talent. Thickening instrumentals demonstrate the virtuousity of her supporting band.

Ginger MacKenzie's Kismet is an album that shows the talent of a budding artist with "with such boundless energy, an undeniable songwriting talent and a voice that evokes the sound of a clear waterfall leaping earthward." Although her music was initially only commonplace in the southwest, a nationwide presence is emerging as her popularity grows. Her new album should be explored further; it is a nice listen!

 
Penny Framstad Self-Titled CD Cover
Image © 1999 Penny Framstad 
 

(05 March 2000) The San Francisco Bay Area's Penny Framstad is an emerging singer songwriter of rare depth and sensitivity. She fronts a five-piece band and performs on guitar and piano. A self-titled ten-track digital audio music CD is currently available exclusively through her mp3.com website. Penny recently had several songs from the album in the mp3 Rock & Pop Radio charts. A west coast tour is planned to launch her indie release during the spring and summer of 2000. Framstad's songs have appeared on NBC's Providence and CBS' Jag.

Her album includes tracks co-written with Grammy Award Winning song writers Tom Whitlock and Jeffrey Cohen. "Even Angels Fall," co-written and sung by Jessica Riddle, appears in the Touchstone film 10 Things I Hate About You and is on the Hollywood Reords Soundtrack (order it from amazon.com here). Penny's own version, with it's lush production, accessibility and lovely instrumental arrangement opens her self-titled album. The album also includes co-writes with Kim Bullard, Steve Seskin, and Geoff Perlman (lead guitar, vocals). Craig Owen (bass), Dan Foltz (drums) and various other supporting musicians provide instrumentals and backing vocals on her album. The track "Anymore," a soft alternative rock with exceptional and building arrangements and percussive elements, was written by Penny alone.

With only light piano as accompaniment, Penny sings "People With My Last Name" and "Back For Me" both stunningly sensitive ballads and wonderful illustrations of the range and depth of Penny's vocal talent. The song "Making Deals With God" is a soft rock track that is sensually sung and supported with lush instrumentation. "The Best Day Of Your Life" and "If I Can Have It All" build from ballad into and richly arranged rock songs with soaring vocals and a notable electric guitar solos, perfect for inclusion in any one of the most popular television series' shows (Roswell for example). "Shadow Of The Sun" with lots of guitar and vocal effects adds to the texture of the album's harder rock tracks. It actually works quite well on its own and in contrast to the album's softer tunes.

The uptempo highly accessible almost-pop "Tomorrow's Happening Today" features wonderful vocal harmonies, lush keyboard backing and a chorus with a wonderful hook certain to please a broad range of audiences. The album closes with "Like A Moth To A Flame" performed much in the style of "People With My Last Name." If one were to open the album and the other to close it, they would be like bookends.

The instrumental arrangements of Penny Framstad's self-titled album add depth and texture to the expressive vocal elements and contribute to the overall sound. This debut is a lovely album and worthy of further exploration by adult alternative rock enthusiasts. Eight of the album's ten songs can be heard online at her mp3.com website. We're sure you will agree that it is a nice listen!

 
Sunshine From Mars CD Cover
Image © 1999 Solstice Records 
 

(05 March 2000) The sweet yet powerful crystalline mid-register vocals on Vermont native Kate Barclay's latest album Sunshine From Mars (Solstice Records (USA) 7 85851-3314-2 4, 1999) will strike most listeners right from the outset. A dynamic vocalist, Kate confounds all expectation of a girl with a guitar. A well established twelve string guitar player, her strumming, picking and percussive playing got her accepted into the Taylor Guitars artist relations program. The new album is co-produced by Kate with Charles Eller who also performs on five tracks. Sunshine From Mars contains twelve relatively short tracks with various styles, including soft rock, folk, blues and jazz, the first half primarily is more instrumentally arranged than the second. Further biographical details and photos are available at Kate's website.

Raunchy lyrics in "Tuna Town" are supported by the rocking jazzy flavour of the song generated by thick bass and harmonica. High production quality and piercing vocals continue into "How About You" which varies between ballad and pulsing rock within the track. Soaring vocals in the chorus are effectively offset by a notable piano and guitar counterpoint. "Stop The Violence" is a bluesy almost spoken track with most notable acoustic guitar accompaniment. Saxophone adds significantly to the lush arrangements of "Fire In The Hole" and the vocals vary between almost spoken lyrical bits to soaring sung parts.

"All I Want" is a most sensitively sung ballad lightly accompanied by acoustic guitar and cello and, like "Hold On" and "Be Your Friend" with their tremendous acoustic guitar parts, illustrates the artist's vocal dexterity. "What You Lookin At" and "It's" are performed in a similar manner. Keyboards join guitar adding to the richness of the arrangement in the alternative rock track (with a country tinge) "Everything." "Keep On Singin" is one of the album's high spots with its banjo and percussion perfectly joining Kate's voice. The album closes with "For A Dollar" a sensitively sung track performed with acoustic guitar alone.

You can order Kate Barclay's album Sunshine From Mars via amazon.com here. She has an excellent voice, writes songs with poingnant lyrics, and the richly arranged songs have tremendous texture. We think you'll agree after listening to the samples online at her mp3.com website. that the album is indeed a nice listen!

 
Center Of My Universe CD Cover
Image © 2000 Sparrow Records 
 

(05 March 2000) The second album from Australian singer songwriter and beauty Michelle Tumes is entitled Center Of My Universe (Sparrow Records (USA) SPD 1696, 2000) comes on the heels of her highly successful Listen (Sparrow Records (USA) SPD 1546, 1998). Centered on her characteristically ethereal vocals and produced by David Leonard and Michelle Tumes, the album's ten tracks are highly accessible alternative rock-oriented numbers with primarily secular lyrical themes; it is in the HDCD format and is accompanied by an high quality liner notes with complete lyrics, credits and lovely colour photography. Sparrow Records has produced another stunning website to accompany the album while another [independent or fan-based] website contains video clips, additional soundbites and amateur photographs. Michelle's late autumn tour met with widespread acclaim.

A classically trained pianist, Michelle gave up her idea of a music career for a time and studied dentistry until her little sister gave her some money from a paper route to make a demo of her songs. With that vote of confidence and some interestr from publishing companies, Michelle set out to pursue a career in the United States. After landing cuts by artists like Jaci Velasquez and Sixpence None The Richer, Michelle signed a record deal and released her debut album. She received an ipressive nod from her peers with a Dove Award Nominaton in 1999 for New Artist of the Year.

The lush orchestral arrangements on Michelle Tumes' albums perfectly compliment her ethereal lead and multi-tracked backing vocals and create a highly accessible sound designed to appeal to the broadest audience. Center Of My Universe opens with "Deep Love" an upbeat Enya-esque tune. "Heaven's Heart" is a soft rocking tune with more pronounced guitar and percussion but equally effective orchestral arrangements. Michelle's sweeet lead vocals are mixed higher and the layers of backing vocal add wonderful texture. The ballads "Lovely" and "Immortal" are equally lush each with their own rich instrumentals, stunning vocal lead and layers of backing vocals but slower pace.

"Do Ya is quite different, and I'm sure people will be shocked by it," admits Michelle. It's very upbeat and pop-oriented. "I wanted people to see there is a different side to me, that I don't always float around and write serene music. That song addresses the fact that looks really don't matter—it's what's on the inside. Everyone's unique, and that's a fantastic thing." It would be perfect song for play within WB's Popular television.

Michelle's sensual lead vocal in "Missing You" is mixed way up in spots with little instrumentation however the choruses have lots of backing layers that add to the acoustic textures. More spoken than typical for Michelle, the lead vocal in "With The Angels" is equally exquisite, evocative and sensual; the layers in the choruses are very accessible—listen for the short whispery hook. A first for Michelle, "Chant" is an immediate link back to more spiritual days. Inspired by a visit to an Othodox church, Michelle reflects, "The music they used in that church was so sacred, and this chant was written with that in mind. It helps me to be still, and silent, and in that place I become very peaceful." The strings supporting otherwise a capella choral work are very effective.

A gothic texture is captured with robust and uplifting orchestral arrangements and percussion in the highly accessible and moving vocal number "Christe Eleison," a certain favourite from the album. The closing track, "I Wish For Peace," is a short and soft ballad sung sensitively mainly with piano accompaniment.

You can order Michelle Tumes' latest album Center Of My Universe via amazon.com here or her debut album Listen here. Clearly Michelle Tumes is continuing to stretch her talent beyond conventional musical boundaries with this new album. Perfect production and top quality recording compliments the song writing and artists' performances. Worthy of a cross country journey, this new album is a stunning achievement and certain to please female vocal enthusiasts. Like her debut album of the same name, it is a must Listen!

 
Another Sky CD Cover
Image © 2000 Narada World 
 

(05 March 2000) The latest album from Ireland's premier Celtic folk band Altan is entitled Another Sky (Narada World (USA) 72438-48838 2 9, 2000). The band is fronted by lead vocalist and band co-founder Mairéad Ní Mhaonaigh (also featured in the compilation Faire Celtsreview) and hails from county Donegal, home of Enya, Clannad and other Celtic artists. Her husband and Altan co-founder passed away in 1994. The band is named after Loch Altan, by which one must pass if travelling from Malin Head to Crolly as we did several years ago enroute to Leo's Tavern.

Another Sky is clearly anchored in Irish music, however, the band is continuing to explore regions outside purely traditional roots. The booklet accompanying the compact disc is especially well produced with song explanations, lyrics, translations and lovely photos. The band has an excellent website which is a thorough resource worthy of further exploration by Celtic music enthusiasts. Full details of the band members and their contributions can be read there. Interested visitors will find that Narada's Altan web page contains the label's perspectives and several short soundbites from the new album.

Another Sky's thirteen lovely tracks consist of traditional instrumentals, vocal ballads sung in Gaelic or English, either solo or with harmonies. Instrumentation is largely traditional —including twin fiddles, accordion and bouzouki, for example—but arrangements are occasionally quite contemporary. The vocal work is consistently stunning—Narada calls it transfixing and we could not agree more.

The album's instrumentals include the medleys "The King of Meenasillagh / Lamcy's / The High Fiddle Reel," "Gusty's Frolicks / Con's Slip Jig / The Pretty Young Girls Of Carrick / The Humours Of Whiskey," "The Dispute at the Crossroads / Columba Ward's / Siús Reel," "The Ookpik Waltz" and "The Waves Of Gola." Altan's arrangements are traditionally rooted but contemporary in their production and delivery. Donal Lunny contributes keyboards to "The Waves Of Gola."

The album opens with a traditional Gaelic vocal entitled "Beidh Aonach Amárach (There's a Fair Tomorrow)" perfectly introducing Mairéad's lead vocal work. The layers of backing vocals add a lovely texture to the track. "Green Grow the Rushes" and "Istland Girl" are lovely traditional ballads sung solo in English; the whistle melodies accompanying the vocals are especially notable. The traditional Gaelic folk song "Eoghainín Ó Ragadáin" is sung sweetly light guitar accompaniment throughout with additional instrumentation and lovely vocal harmonies during the choruses.

The folk songs "Ten Thousand Miles" and Bob Dylan's "Girl From The North Country" both have stunning lead vocal performances and instrumental arrangements that perfectly support the lead. "The Verdant Braes of Screen" is a lovely English ballad with a softly soaring vocal part and a guest performance by Bonnie Raitt on slide guitar adding a unique texture to Altan's sound. The last vocal track on the album is entitled "Tiocfaidh an Samhradh (Summer Will Come)." A Gaelic folk song accompanied by acoustic guitar and piano, it is perfect illustration of the lead vocalist's range, energy and total talent.

You can order Altan's Another Sky via amazon.com here. Altan's latest album further explores their contemporary arrangements of traditional pieces and moves into new directions with guest performances and songs written by contemporary writers. Certainly worthy of further exploration by Celtic female vocal enthusiasts and tradtional instrumentals, the album is worthy of a long distance journey and is a very nice listen!

 
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