Getting Underway
(self-produced, 1999)

A mixture of common traditional tunes and original songs, Getting Underway attempts to bring a new interpretation to some classic tunes with a maritime theme. While the group, consisting of Bay City, Michigan duo Jerry Casault and Kathy Morris, never lacks for enthusiasm or energy, their ability occasionally wanes.

The original compositions are based on traditional tunes, with familiar themes -- especially "A Wee Alibi," which owes a great debt to Alex Beaton. Overall, they are animated and amusing.

The group's opening number is the overused "Rites of Man/Rocky Road to Dublin." Although always a crowd-pleaser, the melodies are so often covered that even the novel addition of the harmonica fails to make the track truly remarkable.

Although the duo's original tunes are better, they suffer from the fact that although Morris is a talented musician -- she plays banjo, whistle, bodhran and guitar on the album -- her voice is not robust enough to carry a song solo. Her "S.O.S. (Sailin' on the Saginaw)" is an exuberant reel, but her singing detracts rather than adds to the tune.

More skillfully rendered is Casault's "Bonham Richard." Casault sings in his strong, rough voice, perfect for a sea shanty. The tune is simple, the arrangement sparse, and the strengths of the group show. Also worth listening to is Casault's "A Wee Alibi," an amusing little ditty regarding a husband's struggle between a wife and beer.

The best is the Shel Silverstein composition "The Great Lakes Song," which showcases Morris' banjo playing with Casault's singing of this jaunty tune. If only all the tunes could reach the same level as this track.

The majority of the songs are classic reels and jigs, which the group sings and plays with enthusiasm. I think that by making a studio album, the group has chosen a forum unsuited to them -- they seem much better suited to a pub gathering or a festival concert. Certainly the energy is that of a live performance, merely lacking the polish of a professional recording. I would love to hear a Hoolie live performance CD.

[ by Heather Gregg ]