Daily Disc Shane Ó Fearghail – Born from Tradition (2020)
Cliff de Booy
At first, we received this beautiful album in digital form, but after I told Shane in a chat how much I loved his work, I didn’t have to wait long before the hard copies of two albums of his albums – Born From Tradition (2020) and They Might See Dolphins (2016) – arrived at CeltCast HQ. And yes, both of them are wonderful!
Shane is an Irish singer-songwriter who now lives in Vienna. His latest album Born From Tradition gives you the feel of the summer sun on your skin…, warm and soothing. It features songs about love, roots and musings about life. Both new and traditional folk songs are on it, sung either in English or Irish. The songs are presented in a modern style of folk music, which is quite refreshing! The booklet, consisting of eight pages, contains the lyrics of the tracks which is something we always appreciate. The album was recorded at Craic Haus Studios 32 and the artwork was designed by Sabine Mann. My favourite songs on this album are: Trasna Na gCianta (Across the Ages) and Na Bi Buartha (Don’t be worried).
Musical greeting Ilona CeltCast
From the first seconds of The Flood you can hear the two trump cards of
the vocals of the sisters Susanne and Hanna van Gemeren. Rarely have I heard two voices blend together so beautifully, so harmonious. They are truly breathtaking together. Combine that with Wouter Raidt’s gentle touch on the acoustic guitar and you are onto a winner. Singer-songwriter folk with a touch of Americana and a real angelic feel that you just have to buy!!!
Good! With this conclusion, this review is sorted! On to the next one! Maybe, but it would be unfair to this lovely young trio to stop here. (And to myself as well, ’cause as long as I write on I can keep listening to this delightful EP. And honestly, I will take on any excuse to do so.)
The Carrots are a trio from Zwolle, the Netherlands. The three of them already earned their stripes in the Dutch scene with the band
Half a Mile,
a band that was together for almost 10 years and had their farewell performance on April the 25th, 2019. Susanne, Hanna and Wouter decided to carry on making music together as a trio and Driftwood is their first official sign of life. What a sign of life it is. I will be highly surprised if this EP won’t open doors for them as soon as the festival season will start again.
As I said in the intro, the opening song The Flood starts really strong. It is a bitter chocolate, singer-songwriter treat wrapped in a delicious pop sound, with a tasty coating of salty Americana caramel to finish it all off. This is candy to the ears of those who share my love for
The Civil Wars,
The two sisters draw you into the Carrot’s music from the very first note they sing. It is a ‘simple’ hum they sing, but the two ladies are able to put so much power and energy in that humble ‘hmmmmm’ sound, I find it astonishing. It is strong, feminine and slightly melancholic but most of all really powerful. Still, within that feminine strength, their voices also have a fragile touch which makes me think of the Dutch dream folk band
Rosemary & Garlic.
But there is more to this ballad than a single hum. A melancholic acoustic guitar riff leads you in heartbroken but beautifully poetic lyrics. When (a minute into the song) Susanne and Hanna’s voices start weaving and circling around each other, the colour of it all reminds me of another strong feminine but emotive vocalist,
Amy Lee. Mind you I’m just comparing the colour of the voices with each other. In no way am I implying that The Carrots make gothic folk-rock!
Having said that…, they do know how to rock though! Listen to Everything Flows, the second track on Driftwood, and the three of them will prove it straight away. Especially the middle part truly kicks ass! The bouzouki ‘riffs’ after the harmonies at 2:40 will get everybody onto their feet. Especially, when played live. And then I’m almost forgetting the whole build-up to that point. It starts from the second verse. The music breaks down into a single bouzouki chord, with some percussion accents, highlighting those beautiful harmonies of the van Gemeren sisters. It all gets stronger and stronger until the whole song erupts in an acoustic, western folk-rock extravaganza. The Carrots surely have a potential hit on their hands with this song.
It is not the only hit on Driftwood though. The power ballad Train Of Thoughts also has hit potential written all over it. Not that it is a commercial song, no, it is just ear-catching beautiful. Again a melody that instantly digs itself into your brain. The guitar chords, the bass line, those voices, they all blend so perfectly well together. Train of Thoughts clearly shows the difference between a designed hit and one that came naturally. This one keeps getting better every time I hear it. And we are not done yet. Hit number three comes straight after Train of Thoughts.
It is called Note To Little Me and it is a true ballad. I love the lyrics of this song. Pure singer-songwriter poetry. I also love the voice of Susanne, she genuinely sounds like Rachel Croft’s sister in this song, instantly making her one of my favourite female vocalists in the folk world.
I find every single bit of this song amazing, but mostly the simplicity of it. 80% of it is just a voice and a guitar. And trust me, it needs nothing more. The result is…, GOOSEBUMPS! Note to Little Me is easily my personal favourite on an album that has the bar raised terribly high.
Closing song Clockwork comes closest to pure old school European folk as we know it. It has that almost medieval storytelling quality that makes me immediately think of classics like
version of Little Duke Arthur’s Nurse,
Meidi Goh’sFoxskin, or
AmmA’sMatty Groves. With Susanne and Hanna on vocals I am mostly drawn to Amma as a comparison actually, and that ain’t a bad thing. But enough about the vocal awesomeness that is displayed all over this EP. At this point, I want to put the spotlight on Wouter Raidt’s guitar playing. He silently shines throughout the whole EP with his warm, thoughtful style of playing. He is the perfect accompanist for the ladies, taking his place in the background, making them sound awesome, as a true musical gentleman would. But he is well capable to spice up the music when needed. That frisky guitar riff under the verse in this song for instance. I just love hearing him walk all over his frets, giving the song an unexpected cheerfulness. When the moment is right, he has the technique to throw down a lovely guitar solo as well. In this case, the guitarsolo has a distinctive Spanish feel to it. Giving Clockwork (and the whole EP) another interesting musical twist.
I started this review by saying the Carrots have two trump cards. That is actually not true. They have three. Wouter is just as important to their sound as the ladies are. They all blend beautifully together, enhancing each other’s talents, which makes them the perfect trio. Can’t wait to see them perform live! I just know we will be in for a treat. Until that moment, we just have to make do with Driftwood. Not a bad replacement though. Not at all!!!
ps. The Carrots recorded a quarantine video, a cover of the song Kingdom Come, originally recorded by the Civil Wars. A lovely version paying true homage to the equally beautiful original. It is way too good not to post here, although it isn’t featured on the EP. Maybe on a future one?? editor: Anna
CD Artwork: Susanne van Gemeren
Picture: Tanja van Dijk
Eivør announces pre -order for new album to start coming wednesday!!
Cliff de Booy
This is what Eivør announced in her latest Saturday night live stream, after telling us the album is already in its final stages of production in her first live stream on the 28th of march.
She also told that those people who pre-order the new album will also get a free song as a direct download.
The new album, which title isn’t revealed yet, is due to be released in September and will contain songs in both Faeröers AND English, told her viewers on her third hour-long live stream. Besides the new song Eivør mentioned and played again with her husband
, who has made a cameo appearance -lovingly announced as her ‘dishwasher’ by Eivør- on every live stream till now, this stream also features her sister
in a stunning version of Rain. If you want to see this, or the previous streams, just follow the links at the bottom.
If you want more information on the upcoming album, you are invited to subscribe to Eivør’s newsletter on the top of her webpage and all the info will be sent directly to you.
For more of Eivør’s live streams. Here is the first one she did on March the 28th with a stunning version of Trøllabundin:
And here is the live stream of April the 4th, with a lovely acoustic rendition of Leonard Cohen’s classic: Famous Blue Raincoat:
Rachel Croft – Hours Awake (2019) review
Cliff de Booy
Every week Ilona gives me an update of the music that she has added to the CeltCast radio stream, and every week I listen to what’s new, and which records I personally would love to put a spotlight on. It only took a few seconds of listening to the opening track Old Climbing Tree of
debut CD Hours Awake for me to decide that yes, this most definitely will be on the review list. What an A-MA-ZING voice. What a song. I simply love it!! That was the easy part, but then came the harder bit: writing a review.
And so the adventure started. First listening to the album a couple of times, having a look at the booklet for some more info, and last but not least going to Rachel’s website for the last details that I needed to write a nice introduction – or so I thought. Because if you really want to write something about Rachel Croft’s background you have to dig deep. I found no biography, no interview, no Wikipedia entry, nothing. It didn’t matter which angle I tried, I drew a blank. Until I desperately started searching for videos I could use on YouTube. That’s where I finally managed to puzzle a wee bit of her story together. With a big thank you to early fan Martin Waring, who recorded several of the earliest performances that Rachel did in her hometown of York.
As far as I have been able to find out, Rachel Croft is a young singer-songwriter from York. She started her career in her hometown doing open mic performances, gigs in local establishments, in the University of York – where she also studied- and busking on the streets of her hometown. It was in 2014 that Martin Waring, a local photographer, spotted Rachel performing in the streets of York, something he had hoped for after seeing her at an open mic performance. And he recorded her playing the song Songbird, a cover of American blues and jazz singer
Rachel Croft performing Songbird in York, 2014. Recorded by Martin Waring
In the following year he kept track of her and recorded some lovely street performances of her doing classic pop songs such as
Sting’sFields of Gold,
Taylor Swift’sDear John and a really powerful version of
Sam Smith’s Stay With Me. But she also sings a beautiful version of
folk anthem Song for Ireland and the Irish classic The Fields of Athenry. In a studio performance she did for the
Pear Tree Sessions
in 2015 she also recorded two folk classics: The Fields of Athenry again and also The Wild Mountain Thyme. Look them up, they are stunning performances.
In 2016 videos of Rachel’s singer-songwriter street performances kept popping up on YouTube, but also a video of
The Croft Mullen Band,
where she is performing theDuke Ellington
classic It Don’t Mean a Thing together with pianist
: a jazzy song she also nails!
In November 2017 Rachel’s very first single, Only Dreams (a song that luckily also found its way on Hours Awake) came out. She wrote it herself and recorded it with the help of Rachel Brown on cello, Emlyn Vaughan on double bass, bandmate Karl Mullen on piano and synth and
on electric guitar. The latter also responsible for recording, mixing and co-producing it. (Most of them also helped out recording Hours Awake, but I’m getting ahead of myself now.)
Only Dreams is a stunning, stunning song, that takes the best of her pop, singer-songwriter and jazz background. It is a beautiful guitar ballad. It reminds me of
Chris Isaac’sWicked Games, also a fragile yet powerful ballad.
When you only listen to the melody and instruments, Only Dreams is already beautiful, the subtle cello, piano and keys with over it this deep-cutting, soul-jerking, yet still fragile slide guitar notes. But the biggest selling point of Only Dreams is Rachel’s voice. Her vocals are stunning. Plain and simple! Her voice is deep, rich, oozing with soul, and she has perfect control over it. It is hard to describe her voice. Take the deep, rich sound of
Vaya Con Dios‘
Dani Klein, the soul voice of
the singer-songwriter qualities of the early
(at the time of her debut 19) and the rich seventies feel of 70’s stars like
Karen Carpenter or
Helen ‘I am Woman’ Reddy.
Then YouTube went quiet, so I had to go on Facebook. In December 2017 Rachel announced that she had started recording new material with Dan Webster for a full-length album. 95% made possible through crowdfunding, according to a grateful Rachel in the booklet of Hours Awake.
On January 8th, 2018, she performed on BBC Radio York in the Introduction Show hosted by Jericho Keys, and in November 2018 she toured The Netherlands for the first time – and if I’m not mistaken that could well have been her first tour outside of Britain.
In February of 2019, Hours Awake finally came out. This was followed by more and more performances in AND outside of Great Britain. One of them was another short tour in The Netherlands that also brought her to
on September the 22nd, where Ilona and Alex saw her perform falling in love with her music on the spot. A love they happily passed on to me, hence this review.
Hours Awake, a wonderful album
It is not hard to fall in love with Rachel’s music, though. As I said, it already starts with the first notes of Old Climbing Tree.
A deep and powerful string intro makes this song come closest to the music we normally play at CeltCast. Together with the tribal drums, it could be the intro to a
song if it wasn’t for those warm soulful vocals of Rachel coming in, somewhere between Joss Stone, Dani Klein and
Old Climbing Tree is the most Celtic of the songs on Hours Awake: most of the songs hover somewhere between singer-songwriter material, American folk and the contemporary pop music made by artists like Adele – they are jazzy, deeply rooted in musical history, and yet sound modern, contemporary.
It is almost impossible to name one highlight. Hear Me, the 70’s style In Blue or Rainier Day, the jazzy Don’t Feel like Holding On with its lovely violin melody weaving through it, 6,000 miles, they are all equally beautiful singer-songwriter ballads.
If I had to choose my favourites I would pick Can’t Replace Your Perfect, a soulful gospel ballad that wouldn’t look out of place on a Joss Stone or a Croft Mullen band album (yes, Rachel and Karl Mullen still perform together), the powerful opener Old Climbing Tree and of course the wonderful first single Only Dreams. Rachel is on her very VERY best in that song, with a voice so rich and warm that it is capable of melting the chocolate ice cream in your refrigerator.
This young lady has a great career ahead of her. Trust me, in a few year’s time she will be huge, so go see her next time she is performing at Elfia, you won’t regret it. Not at all!
Editor: Iris de Wolf
sleeve art: D. Somme
picture: Rachel Croft
Video of Songbird posted with kind permission of Martin Waring