Reviews by Declan Culliton

The Whileaways ‘Saltwater Kisses’  Self Release

 The Whileaways comprises of Galway musicians Noriana Kennedy, Nicola Joyce and Noelie Mc Donnell. Kennedy and Mc Donnell had both previously recorded solo albums while Joyce sang and recorded with the folk group Grada. They combined their collective talents to record their critically acclaimed debut album Dear My Maker in 2013 to excellent reviews. Saltwater Kisses follows in a similar vein with eleven tracks, both Kennedy and Joyce have individually written four songs each and Mc Donnell three, all showcasing their exquisite three part harmonies.

By their own admission the songs are uncomplicated, delicate, intimate and easy listening with the lead vocal shared between the band members on the eleven tracks recorded on Saltwater Kisses. Very much a summer album, the breezy back porch Wake Up Sleepy Head works particularly well as does Family Well with hints towards Van Morrison in his more melodic moods. The albums strongest offering is possibly Fruit On The Vine sung by Nicola Joyce who also contributes Baritone Uke on this radio friendly song. 

The album was produced by Liam Caffrey and Eamon Brady in a lakeside house at Glencorrib near Headford Co.Galway. The listener may find the vocal sharing resulting in the album sounding a trifle disjointed but the quality of the vocals generally and the song writing should overcome any reservations.

The Blood Red Mountain Band ‘Far From Daylight’  Self Release

Delightful and refreshing debut album from Dublin five piece The Blood Red Mountain Band combining divine harmonies, fine musicianship and impressive song writing. The band consists of Mark Flynn (vocals and guitar), Sarah May Rogers (violin, strings and vocals), Alison Byrne (vocals), David Keegan on (drums and percussion) and Joeby Browne ( bass and vocals).

The album comprises twelve tracks, eleven written by band members together with a splendid cover of Maybelle Carter’s Fair and Tender Ladies. Their sound is a well-structured mix of folk, blues and country bringing to mind the dream like sound of Simone Felice’s Duke and The King on All The Times, I’ve Got You (On My Mind) and ‘Till The Wheels but also more than capable of moving up-tempo with the more rockier My Sweet Rose and Lucy Jackson (Don’t Break My Heart). The standout tracks are the haunting Trial and the beautiful cover of the aforementioned Fair and Tender Ladies.

The majority of the songs are delivered with duo or harmony vocals, not unsurprisingly as four of the band are credited as vocalists and enhanced throughout by some exquisite violin and strings by Sarah May Rogers. All in all a fine piece of work.

Hidden Treasures ‘Singer Songwriters From Home’ Hemifran 

The term singer songwriter originated from an album titled The Singer Songwriter Project released in 1965 and featuring the music of four obscure US artists, David Cohen, Dick Farina, Bruce Murdock and Patrick Sky. Prior to this recording solo artists who performed their own material were simply identified as folk singers or in some cases protest singers. 

Hidden Treasures commemorates the fiftieth anniversary since the release of The Singer Songwriter Project and aptly titled features four highly respected artists some of whom have been recording for decades but have remained somewhat under the radar. 

The artists in question are Greg Copeland, Keith Miles, Barry Oldman and Bob Cheevers and their varying styles contribute to what is a wonderful seventy minutes of roots music. Greg Copeland has been recording for many years and has co-written with Jackson Browne. Among the artists that have recorded Copeland’s songs are The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band and Peter, Paul and Mary. His 1982 release Revenge Will Come was produced by Jackson Browne and was followed over twenty five years later by the Greg Leisz produced Diana and James.

Nashville resident Keith Miles has recorded two albums, What It Was They Became (2006) and Beyond the Headlights (2009) both on the House of Trout label. His tracks for the Hidden Treasures album were recorded in Nashville by Poco member Jack Sundrud and Bill Halverson.

Barry Ollman recorded his debut album What’ll It Be in 2014 and features Graham Nash and E-Street Band bassist Garry W Tallent. Ollman recorded his contributions to Hidden Treasures in hometown Loveland, CO.

Austin resident since relocating from Nashville in 2008, Bob Cheevers was awarded the accolade of Singer Songwriter of The Year in 2011 for his album Tall Texas. Hardly an overnight success Tall Texas was Cheevers eleventh album but his first recorded in Austin whose music scene was more sympathetic to Cheevers style than that of Nashville.

The albums list of contributors is certainly impressive featuring Jackson Browne, John Fullbright, Bill Harverson, Greg Leisz, David Lindley, Spooner Oldham, Tim O’Brien, James Raymond, Patrick Sky, and Garry W Tallent among others.

The songs performed by Greg Copeland feature his relaxed spoken like singing style very much in keeping with that of Leonard Cohen, particularly of the song Mistaken for Dancing. Patrick Sky, one of the artists featured on the original 1965 album, plays uilleann pipes on the opening track by Copeland (Wait for Me).

Bob Cheevers contribution to the album include The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, possibly the stand out track on the album. Other Cheever’s songs Progress are delivered with his trademark vocal style, very much in the style of the Willie Nelson vibrato.

The inclusions by Barry Ollman, in particular Longtime Friend and Murmuration, are rooted in more commercial territory than the other artists work. Beautifully crafted with catchy hooks similar in sound to the work of Gary Louris.

Of all the four artists featured on the album Keith Miles is probably the most traditional in the singer songwriter genre. Uncomplicated songs such as Kerouac, Playing Your Guitar and a Cab Calloway sounding Ask Me Tomorrow are included. All have divergent styles yet a surprisingly coherent body of work that is well worth investigating.

Bettysoo ‘When We’re Gone’ Self Released

When We’re Gone is the seventh album released by Texas resident Korean-American Bettysoo. She has been recording for over a decade at this stage without unfortunately making the commercial break through that the quality of her output deserves. 

Similar to her earlier work, the album deals  primarily with tales of loss, desperation, loneliness, strive and break up. Very little of the upbeat for the listener but all beautifully crafted songs, often dominated by the silky cello playing of Brian Standefer who together with Bettyloo produced the album at his studio in Buda Texas. Other notable Texas musicians that appear on the album include Glenn Fukunage on bass, Dave Terry on drums, Will Sexton on guitar and Lloyd Maine’s who adds pedal steel on Last Night.

Bettysoo’s often fragile vocal is so well suited to her material. 100 Ways of Being Alone opens with lyrics that set the scene for much of what follows: It’s the brother that never writes anymore /The uncle you never heard mentioned before / The dad you didn’t know left when you were born / A mother who leaves her child behind the store. 

Much to enjoy on the album in particular standout tracks being 100 Ways Of Being Alone, The Things She Left Home With and Love Is Real, all of which bring to mind the work of Kathleen Edwards, hardly a bad thing.

The album signs off with the beautiful and haunting Lullaby which closes with a particularly striking cello and flute instrumental.