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Follow Your Heart
Image © 2001 Sony Music 

(13 April 2001) Cathy Vard was the first to break away from the Irish trio called The Vard Sisters who released an album of seventeen classical and secular arias entitled Heavenly in the mid-1990s. Her debut solo album is entitled Follow Your Heart (Sony Music Entertainment / Columbia (UK) 492792.2, 1998). Heavenly has subsequently been reissued in the Sony mid-price range and continues to be available from retail and online sources. The other two sisters--Wendy and Lisa--released their album A Time Of Change in 2000 (review). Featuring these attractive sisters' stunningly crystalline vocals, all three albums have had widespread critical acclaim. Wendy and Lisa--The Vards--are represented by the well known Dublin agency run by Pat Egan.

Cathy Vard's album is comprised of thirteen relatively well-known tracks. Produced by Bill Somerville-Large, arrangements almost exclusively by John Drummond have been carefully constructed to provide a quiet foundation for Cathy's lovely voice. Celtic roots come through in the opening "Lullaby" sweetly sung over a light instrumental. Also appearing on The Vards' album, Cathy's version of "The Second Time" is more delicately sung, as one would expect from a solo project.

The West End sounding arrangements of Paul Simon's 1968 tunes "Old Friends" and "Bookends" perfectly suit Cathy's voice. Cathy's version of the timeless Dvorak hymn "Going Home" was arranged by Michael Casey. With the orchestra in the background throughout, Cathy's soaring vocals, backed by Catriona Walsh and Cathy Corcoran, carry the melody.

The second half of the album blends classical arrangements with Irish themes. Des Cave's narration perfectly compliments Cathy's vocal part in "The Stolen Child" a tune written by Mike Scott with words by W. B. Yeats. Liam Lawton provides a Celtic edge to the album in "The Clouds Veil," "Seol" apparently adapted from the Riverdance tune, "Paidir na Trinoide" and "A World Within." Cathy's classical vocal training rings through in every note, especially during the sustains in the slower pieces.

Layers of crystalline vocals--Cathy's lead and the backing singers' harmonies--dominate the classical ballad "The Source" written by Brendan Graham. Cathy's version of a traditional air entitled "Raglan Road," arranged by John Drummond is delicately and sensually sung over a very light piano and string backdrop. Orchestrally richer than many of the tracks that precede it, the tender track, "A World Within" closes the album

Follow Your Heart is a definitive female vocals album. Cathy Vard's crystalline voice perfectly suits the selection of tracks included while instrumentals have been suitably arranged never to overshadow the vocal work but effectively backing the lead and harmony parts. Certainly worth a journey, this album--like the one by her sisters--is clearly a must listen!

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