(13 May 2000) The title track of Darby DeVon's 11-track album
Highlands (Etherean Music (USA) 97347 35012, 1999) is also featured on
the Celtic Mystique compilation (review).
A reprise concludes the album and brackets nine Celtic-tinged vocally
rich new age pieces. DeVon's music will certainly appeal to
enthusiasts of Maire Brennan, Enya and Miriam Stockley. While the
music is instrumentally rich with accordian, hammered dulcimer, fiddle,
violin, viola, cello, recorder and double bass joining contemporary
keyboards and guitars, Darby's extensive vocal contribution is the driving
force within the music with both lyrical and vocalise passages. A lovely
booklet complete with song backgrounds explaining the theme of the
album accompanies the compact disc.
The title track is a highly instrumental number filled with stunning
vocalise. "The Knight At Dublin Castle" is a moving and catchy Celtic
ballad balancing traditional with contemporary instrumentation while
instrumentals and vocalise characterise the contemporary ballad "The
Quest of Lia Fall." A certain favourite track is "Daydreams." It is
a very accessible rhythmic Enya-like number with layers of vocalise
supporting a lovely and sensitively sung lead vocal. Allusions to
Enya's style return in "Together We Fly. Upbeat and dynamic contemporary
instrumentals join traditional sounds and layers of vocalise cohesively
bind the song together.
"Valparaiso" is a lovely ballad, most reminiscent of Miriam Stockley's
"Song Of The Seahorse." From the liner notes, "A mystical and intuitive
interpretation of this reflective composition by Sting mirrirs the
Hero's pensive inner landscape." Evocatively sung in all respects,
backing vocals add to the texture of the otherwise simple
instrumentation of the track.
The album's pure instrumentals include the soft "Passage to Iona"
arranged in a Renaissance (-faire) style with a calling recorder
and hammer dulcimer playing highly notable parts. Another is "Oghma's
Return" mixing traditional Irish jig-like passages with the more
military themes of Scottish Celtic music. The reprise of "Highlands"
is reminscent of the tracks that precede it, clearly illustrating the
variety of instrumental arrangements within the album.
Darby DeVon's debut album Highlands is certainly one of the
finest new age-oriented albums we've heard this year and filled with
stunning vocals and well-written and performed instrumental arrangements,
worth a cross-country journey, is a must listen!