Hayley Griffiths,
Celtic Rose
(Surefire, 2011)

At age 15, Hayley Griffiths starred in the BBC period drama The Aristrocrats. She followed that up with plays at the Royal Shakespeare Company and in Scrooge: The Musical. From there, she floated into Riverdance and was later chosen by Michael Flatley himself to be lead singer in his extravaganza, Feet of Flames.

Clearly, this is an accomplished young lady. Is it any wonder she is now taking on the recording industry? Celtic Rose is the result of her assault on recording. It is a collection of Irish ballads, both traditional and contemporary, all interpreted through Griffiths' sultry, clear-as-a-bell soprano, a voice you would more associate with classical music than folk ballads.

And there you have both the strength and the weakness of Griffiths' album. The strengths (and there are many): her voice, which is amazing in its clarity, range and tone. It serves the arrangements well, which are heavy on whistles, pianos and strummed acoustic guitars. When she sings, you put down your cup of tea and listen. Which leads us to the weakness: you would never think of having a beer while listening to Hayley Griffiths. Everything is too formal, too tight. Instead of liberating these tunes, Griffiths becomes confined by them. Her approach is too grounded in classical music. She is too polite. You long for her to growl and cut loose and she never does.

That's not to say the album is a failure. Her versions of "Wild Mountainside," "You Raise Me Up" and "Carrickfergus" are fine. They suit her beautifully trained voice perfectly and are a pleasure to listen to. Other tunes, however, don't reach their peaks. I could easily go the rest of my life without being subjected to "Danny Boy" or "Galway Bay" again. Both are too hoary and withered to be raised up by her talent.

If you are a fan of the style of Celtic music presented in Riverdance or on the public TV specials, this album is for you.

music review by
Michael Scott Cain

12 November 2011

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