Avalon Rising,
Storming Heaven
(Flowinglass, 2004)

Ah, the magic of Ireland and the traditional tunes of Scotland and England! As I listen to this CD, I imagine leprechauns, green hills and lads and lasses dancing. With Celtic harp, drums, pipes, flutes, fiddles and acoustic guitar, Avalon Rising plays lively traditional jigs and reels.

But wait. An electric guitar sometimes comes into play, and that is a surprise. I found some of the tunes had jolted me out of my reveries about traditional music, but maybe that's because it wasn't what I was expecting. Yet the more I listened to this CD, the more I began to enjoy its quirks. The lyrics are intriguing and the musical instruments -- though not always what I expected -- are appropriate to the songs.

I enjoyed this group's interpretations of the traditional, plus some new songs. The music includes "The Hexamshire Lass" (traditional English), "Hunt the Blarney Cat" (traditional Irish) and "Glasgow Peggy" (traditional Scots).

"The Chieri" was written in 1979 by Cynthia McQuillin, and the instrumentation is a combination of modern and traditional sounds, yet the words to the song bring visions of a mythical time. "Sidhe Set" and "The Lark in the Morning" are traditional instrumental jigs. They make me want to jump up and dance.

I found "Jack Daw" intriguing in both words and music:

Jack Daw came from the mountain
And he brought his jug of wine
He sat and talked among us
We lost track of the time.

That bottle held the future
And the spirits of the past
We drank it to the dregs
But we could not drink the last...

At the darkest hour of winter
With the world about to end
He sacrificed himself
So the sun could rise again.

The story about sacrifice and the change of seasons is a story retrieved from the mists of time, yet the lyrics were written in 2002 by Kristoph Klover.

And then there are "Congress Reel/Red Crow" and "Do You Love an Apple," both traditional Irish tunes. Another original song by Klover is "Turning in Time," a poetic song about the ecstasy of love.

This is followed by "Musical Pesto Set," another series of traditional Irish tunes. "Dancing Bear" was written in 1966 by John Phillips and it's a boy's fantasy about being a gypsy, a cabin boy on a magic ship and a grown man who can "eat just what I please the honey from the bee the shellfish from the sea." "Black Joke" is a set of traditional Irish jigs followed by "Dulaman," with lyrics by Christy Martin set to traditional music. "Health to the Company" is a traditional drinking song sung a cappella.

Storming Heaven combines the traditional with the new and does it well. That's what puts a spin on it.

by Barbara Spring
17 March 2007

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