Brothers 3,
The Journey That Lies Before
(Earth & Space, 2003)

The Journey That Lies Before is the third eclectic, Celtic-based album from Brothers 3. The group originally consisted of three brothers, but grew to the current line-up of seven members playing instruments as varied as violin, mandolin, alto sax and wind synthesiser, plus vocals and some very impressive percussion. All this together creates a very full and unique sound. At times it takes on an epic quality, making you think it might be a grand film soundtrack.

The music predominantly originates in various parts of the United Kingdom and Ireland, though no history or information is given for most of the pieces. Lyrics are provided, but the instrumental pieces do not list which tunes are included. The album starts off with a very energetic rendition of "Toss the Feathers" (renamed "Toss de Feddahs") made famous by the Corrs and recorded ceaselessly ever since. It concludes with an equally energetic version of "Da Shetlands," which has some fantastic percussion and very interesting vocals.

In between are a wonderful mix of instrumental pieces and songs. Though sounding quite traditional in places, they have drawn considerable influence from world music and jazz. Many of the members have musical backgrounds outside of Celtic and folk music and it shows. These other influences flavour the music throughout, with the saxophone taking over the violin melody and the percussion taking on some decidedly un-Celtic rhythms. There are quite a few selections that have been arranged with synthesisers or electric guitar or some other seemingly strange instrument or rhythm in them. Often these come along partway through a piece. The transitions within the songs are fairly subtle, but often the realization that the music has almost completely changed styles in the middle of a tune comes as a bit of a shock shortly after the change. The overall effect of the album is smoother and it can easily be left on repeat on the CD player.

The pieces with vocals are well sung. The choruses, sung in harmony, are at times almost a bit eerie. At first they didn't really appeal to me, but after listening a few times, I found them very infectious. "Grey Funnel Line" is my favourite, though "Bonnie Suzie Clelland" and "Rambling Sailor" run a close second and third.

There is a theme of travel and journeying running through many, though not all, of the music. This is complemented nicely by the beautiful packaging. Pictures of old maps, compasses and other nautical bits and pieces are scattered over a background of a map. I know you shouldn't judge a CD by its cover, but a nice case just makes the whole experience a little more pleasant.

This recording earned the highest praise from my students as well. Not having had much exposure to Celtic or folk music, they usually pull faces and give back the headphones after just a few bars, or collapse giggling over the "funny sounds." This album evoked neither of these reactions and I was relieved of my CD player for a full quarter of an hour, as it got passed around, before I was able to retrieve it. Believe me, that is high praise indeed!

With the vast quantity of musical talent between them, Brothers 3 has created a recording that bends the boundaries and gives fresh jazzy sound to some old standards. A wonderfully epic journey lies before you. I hope you take it and enjoy.

- Rambles
written by Jean Emma Price
published 15 May 2004

[ visit the artist's website ]