Aine Furey,
Sweetest Summer Rain
(Celtic Collections, 2001)

Aine Furey comes from a distinguished musical tradition, her father being a member of the group the Fureys and herself being one of the key members of Bohinta. Sweetest Summer Rain is her first solo recording, and she brings large amounts of both experience and tradition to her album. Though the album itself contains very few traditional songs, it has a very traditional, folksy flavour to it. Many of the songs were written by her brother, Martin, who is also the producer.

With a musical pedigree like that, you would expect this recording to be spectacular. Sadly, it falls short. Furey's voice lacks depth and emotion, and the songs are arranged in such a manner as to sound almost washed out. The songs mostly have the same basic style, making them all blend together. There are virtually no changes in tempo throughout the album -- with everything at medium speed -- making for a bit of a dull listen.

All this is unfortunate. The album definitely has the potential to be that expected "spectacular." Furey has a truly beautiful voice and a considerable amount of talent, but she just doesn't sound like she cares much. The songs are all well written, with fantastic lyrics, but the arrangements hide them behind the hollow sound of the music.

With pieces written my Aine, Martin and Finbar Furey, the clan is well represented. Also included are "Silky" (a.k.a., "The Great Selkie of Suleskerry"), "Marble Halls" and "Renardine" on the more traditional front, as well as two songs by Sandy Denny, "Winter Winds" and "All Our Days," and "By the Water" by Anne Briggs.

"Silky" has a very nice fiddle and some interesting whistle playing, but Furey maintains almost a monotone throughout, making it completely forgettable. "Marble Halls" has a quicker tempo, but the song has been recorded so many times and in so many ways that nothing is terribly original anymore. I think this song should be barred from being recorded for at least 50 years, just to give us all a break! Following a couple of tracks later is Martin's "Whirlwind," a wonderfully upbeat song with a strong rhythm, inspiring lyrics and beautiful singing.

"Winter Winds" is sung a cappella and is the one truly memorable song on the album. Here Furey's vocals are deep and moving, unlike many of the other pieces. The sparseness evokes the driving coldness of winter. If the whole album had been recorded with such intensity, it would have been breathtaking.

The recording, overall, fell short of my expectations. However, that would not put me off Furey for life, neither has it put me completely off this album. She is very talented, and I think I would have to hear more of her work before passing final judgment. The two or three memorable tracks are really fantastic and it is too bad that more pieces weren't arranged in a similar manner. The album is great for when you need music but don't want to be distracted by it. I hope her next album has more substance and distracts me constantly.

- Rambles
written by Jean Emma Price
published 8 May 2004

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