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Current concise reviews of the albums by adult alternative, contemporary, and crossover artists. Images of album artwork and links to both internet-based resources are always included. Click on the title to view the article.

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

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Alla Kadysh Perichole's Sincerity Theory CD Cover
Image © 1996 \r\n\r\nAlla 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. Furtherinformation about the artist and the album's title are availableat the artist's website.

The vocally laced album features heartfelt songs sung in acontemporary and worldly style with stunning vocals, soaringat 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 interestingand consequently there isn't an artist or band she listens to allthe time. She told us, "I could listen to a song I like 56 timesa day for three weeks in a row and never come back to it again. The CDchanger 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 isaccompanied by Wes Wraggett (electric and acousticguitars, 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 illustratingAlla'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." Whenasked about the web, she told us, "The internet has been a great promotional tool so far. I used to call peopletrying 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 atmp3.com and order her albumPerichole's Sincerity Theory at amazon.com here. Certainly worth further exploration, the album is vocallystimulating and a relaxing listen!

Big Sky Volume 1: The Source CD Cover
Image © 2000 \r\n\r\nSurvival Records Ltd  

(18 March 2000) The Celtic Groove Foundation is comprised of Charlie McKerron and John Saich, coremembers of Scotland's Capercaillie (review), well-known aspioneers in progressive Celtic music. In collaborationwith Charlie's cousin Laura McKerron, their debutproject Big Sky has released a debut albumentitled Volume 1: The Source (Survival (UK) SURCD024, 2000). Certain to appeal to the band'sfollowers and fans of Celtic-pop crossover bands likeThe 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 musicbut 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 whosevoice can best be compared to Andrea Coor in many ofthe album's tracks but especially in the highly accessible ballad "Angel." The opening track "Golden Hair" is classic Celtic-popfusion with lots of vocal harmony, traditional fiddle and lushcontemporary 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 vocalcontributions sharing these with John Saich who is uniquely credited with the album's bass parts. "Millenium Girl" combinesan almost bluegrass sound with highly accessible dance-orientedrock 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 introducedearlier in "Las Temporadas." The band have done some touring in Scotlandbut 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!

Image © 2000 \r\n\r\nNarada Productions, Inc.  

(05 March 2000) The best compilation of Celtic female vocal artistsever 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 femalevocalists, several presently featured within Musical Discoveries. Anespecially 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-registerrendition of "He Moved Through The Fair" sung almost a capella over very lightly arranged instrumentation. Eimear Quinn's Eurovision 1996winner "The Voice," previously only released in Ireland as a singlecommemorating the event, follows with her stunning soprano vocals over the a lush yet traditionally steeped orchestral arrangement. FromCapercaillie's latest album Beautiful Wasteland (concert review), Karen Matheson singsthe progressive Celtic number "Hebridean Hale-Bobb" in her uniquemouth-music style. Next, Mary McLaughlin sings a lovely ballad written by Elenor McEvoy entitled "A Woman's Heart" over lightstring based instrumentation; multi-tracked vocals in the chorusadd a lovely texture to the arrangement. The wide ranging interestsand 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 leadWest Of Eden in a stunningprogressive Celtic ballad entitled "This Piece Of Earth," ahighlight 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. AmericanConnie Dover sends hervocals 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 traditionalstring and other light accompaniment from her band Dervish. Cathyis regarded as one of the finest traditional singers in Irelandtoday. Rich production and a highly accessible Euro-pop arrangementmake Talitha MacKenzie's "Hoireann O" from her Solas albumone 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 breadthand 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.comhere. This thirteen-track compilation is the finest ensembleof tracks by Celtic-inpsired female vocalists. The album should befurther 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 © \r\nNettwerk 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 accompaniesthe 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 singingwith friends on the top deck of a ferry boat en route to a tiny islandoff the coast of British Columbia by Nettwerk Records staffers. Aftertaping a few songs for them, Tara was signed to the label, and herdebut eleven-track album Silence (review) was released in 1996. MacLeantoured for two straight years with Paula Cole, Ron Sexsmith, and theBarenaked Ladies. She has carved her own style and astounded audienceswith her honesty and unforgettable voice and was named Best New Solo Artistat the Canadian Radio Music Awards in 1997.

From her website, "The unending cycle of Human in nature, myth, unityand chaos and the elements that make up life are some of the subjects inTara's new songs, which weave shimmering organic melodies with anundulating trip-hop undertow, a musical correlative to feeding the soulwithout ignoring the flesh." The album was produced in New Orleans by Malcolm Burn and Bill Bell. The lush arrangements includepiano, guitar, other strings including violin, viola and cello, as wellas 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" andballads "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 melodicballad "La Tempête" is sung emotionally in French with very lightinstrumentation.

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 thatcloses the album (listen for the "Scarborough Fair" melody within it).

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

Over The Rhine Good Dog Bad Dog CD Cover
Image © 2000 \r\n\r\nNarada Productions, Inc.  

(05 March 2000) Over The Rhine has released eight albums, beginningtheir 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'ssong 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 textureof 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," asoft rock tune with light percussion and a wonderfulstring 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 soaringat 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 thisNaradapage.

You can order Over The Rhine's album Good Dog Bad Dog at amazon.comhere. Over The Rhine's recordings are worth further exploration if forno other reason to hear Karin Bergquist sing. A tremendous vocal talent inall respects, this new album should be investigated. It is a very nice listen!

Lorenza Ponce Self-Titled CD Cover
Image © 1999 \r\n\r\nLMP 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 Voicesreview©1998-2000 Graham Lubin). Since releasing Imago, New York-based Lorenza Ponce has touredon 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 itsinspiration 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 featuremoody evocative and sensual vocals. Asianand Middle Eastern themes derived from strings and percussion are combined with contemporary electronic sounds to create a highlymemorable soundscape. Most of the album's tracks are producedby Lorenza with Floyd Fisher.Five of the tracks sport vocals while theremaining three are purely instrumental. The percussion, vocalsand 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 chorusadds an Enya-like texture to the sound. "The Vision" is an especially worldly instrumental with supporting vocalise to addtexture. The violn work is gorgeous, naturally! "Ruby" hasstunning vocal work, sharp worldly percussion and a tremendousstring arrangement that contribute to the overall texture ofthe track. "Into The Daylight" is written, performed and was produced by Lorenza. Sensitive vocals and a more pronouncedviolin arrangement with uptempo percussion contribute to theaccessibility of the song.

Lorenza's voilin virtuosity is the feature attraction in the lovely ballad-paced instrumental "Can You Hear Me" whichlike the track that follows moves away from the earlier worldsound 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'slovely 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 trackscertain to please a broad audience. Checkout a soundbite atLorenza'smp3.com website. With vocal and instrumentalvirtuousity including spellbinding violin performances, her newalbum is worth extensive exploration, a long distance journeyfor sure—a must listen!

Ginger MacKenzie Kismet CD Cover
Image © 1999 \r\n\r\nEarthnoise 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 hermp3.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 ather website.

The opening number from the ten-track Kismet album has beenmost 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 lightinstrumentation and almost spoken vocals. "Whole Heart" is a bluesyballad, 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 fullyillustrates the full range, power and sheer energy of GingerMacKenzie's vocal talent. Thickening instrumentals demonstratethe virtuousity of her supporting band.

Ginger MacKenzie's Kismet is an album that shows the talentof 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 onlycommonplace in the southwest, a nationwide presence is emerging asher popularity grows. Her new album should be explored further; itis a nice listen!

Penny Framstad Self-Titled CD Cover
Image © 1999 \r\n\r\nPenny 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 hermp3.com website. Penny recently had several songs from the album in the mp3 Rock & Pop Radio charts. A west coast tour is plannedto launch her indie release during the spring and summer of 2000.Framstad's songs have appeared on NBC's Providence andCBS' 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 HollywoodReords Soundtrack (order it from amazon.comhere). 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 ofPenny'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 anda notable electric guitar solos, perfect for inclusion in any one of the most popular television series' shows (Roswellfor example). "Shadow Of The Sun" with lots of guitar and vocaleffects adds to the texture of the album's harder rock tracks.It actually works quite well on its own and in contrast to thealbum'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 broadrange of audiences. The album closes with "Like A Moth To AFlame" performed much in the style of "People With My LastName." 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-titledalbum add depth and texture to the expressive vocal elements andcontribute to the overall sound. This debut is a lovely albumand worthy of further exploration by adult alternative rockenthusiasts. Eight of the album's ten songs can be heard online at hermp3.com website. We're sure you will agree that it is a nice listen!

Sunshine From Mars CD Cover
Image © 1999 \r\n\r\nSolstice 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 wellestablished 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 rockingjazzy flavour of the song generated by thick bass and harmonica.High production quality and piercing vocals continue into "How AboutYou" 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 bluesyalmost 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 bitsto soaring sung parts.

"All I Want" is a most sensitively sungballad 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 arrangementin the alternative rock track (with a country tinge) "Everything.""Keep On Singin" is one of the album's high spots with its banjo andpercussion perfectly joining Kate's voice. The album closes with"For A Dollar" a sensitively sung track performed with acousticguitar alone.

You can order Kate Barclay's album Sunshine From Mars via amazon.comhere. 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 hermp3.com website. that the album is indeed a nice listen!

Center Of My Universe CD Cover
Image © 2000\r\n\r\nSparrow Records  

(05 March 2000) The second album from Australian singersongwriter and beautyMichelle Tumes is entitled Center Of My Universe (Sparrow Records (USA) SPD 1696, 2000) comeson 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 tracksare 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 noteswith 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 containsvideo clips, additional soundbites and amateur photographs. Michelle's late autumn tour met with widespread acclaim.

A classically trained pianist, Michelle gave up heridea of a music career for a time and studied dentistryuntil her little sister gave her some money from a paper routeto make a demo of her songs. With that vote of confidence andsome interestr from publishing companies, Michelle set out to pursue a career in the United States. After landing cuts byartists 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 DoveAward 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 backingvocals and create a highly accessible sound designed to appealto the broadest audience. Center Of My Universe openswith "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 layersof 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 serenemusic. That song addresses the fact that looks really don'tmatter—it's what's on the inside. Everyone's unique, andthat's a fantastic thing." It would be perfect song for playwithin 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 "WithThe 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 linkback to more spiritual days. Inspired by a visit to an Othodox church, Michelle reflects, "The music they used in that churchwas so sacred, and this chant was written with that in mind. Ithelps me to be still, and silent, and in that place I becomevery 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.comhere or her debut album Listenhere. Clearly Michelle Tumes is continuing to stretch her talent beyondconventional musical boundaries with this new album. Perfect productionand 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\r\n\r\nNarada World  

(05 March 2000) The latest album from Ireland's premier Celticfolk band Altan is entitled Another Sky (Narada World (USA)72438-48838 2 9, 2000). The band is fronted by leadvocalist 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 mustpass if travelling from Malin Head to Crolly as we did severalyears ago enroute to Leo's Tavern.

Another Sky is clearly anchored in Irish music, however, the band is continuing to explore regionsoutside purely traditional roots. The booklet accompanying thecompact disc is especially well produced with song explanations,lyrics, translations and lovely photos. The band has an excellentwebsite which is a thoroughresource 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 traditionalinstrumentals, vocal ballads sung in Gaelic or English, either solo orwith 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 notagree 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 HumoursOf Whiskey," "The Dispute at the Crossroads / Columba Ward's /Siús Reel," "The Ookpik Waltz" and "The Waves Of Gola." Altan'sarrangements are traditionally rooted but contemporary in theirproduction 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)" perfectlyintroducing Mairéad's lead vocal work. The layers of backing vocalsadd a lovely texture to the track. "Green Grow the Rushes" and "Istland Girl" are lovely traditional ballads sung soloin English; the whistle melodies accompanying the vocals areespecially notable. The traditional Gaelic folk song "Eoghainín Ó Ragadáin" is sung sweetly light guitar accompanimentthroughout with additional instrumentation and lovely vocalharmonies during the choruses.

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

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

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