Behind the Green Bushes
(Oasis, 1996)

The band's name, HeartSounds, caused me to predict an album of wispy, sentimental, neo-Celtic new age tripe. The album's title, Behind the Green Bushes, led me to expect a bawdy, perhaps even raunchy recording of songs to make a pub wench blush.

But Behind the Green Bushes by HeartSounds is neither. Rather, it's a recording of delicate instrumentation (harp, flutes and whistles) and a gentle, well-polished voice rendering a diverse collection of Celtic slow and lively traditional tunes.

HeartSounds is Mary Kay Mann (flutes and whistles) and Janet Jackson Biely (Celtic harp). Mann is also the duo's vocalist, and she sings with elegance and presence. (The band occasionally slips into graceful vocal harmonies, which are executed so well I have to wonder why there aren't more of them.) The music is always soft, better suited to a parlor than a pub, but the performance is sheer pleasure to hear.

The selection is largely traditional, including the likes of songs "Scarborough Fair," "Green Bushes," "My Lagan Love," "Blow the Candles Out" and "The Water is Wide," and tunes "Roving Galway Boy," "I Wish I Were on Yonder Hill," "Morrison's Jig," "Black Nag" and "Haste to the Wedding." The pair has also selected some favorites from Irish bard Turlough O'Carolan ("Carolan's Concerto," "Sheebeg and Sheemore" and "George Brabazon") and Scottish bard Robert Burns ("My Dowrie's the Jewel").

Biely also contributed one original tune to the mix, the waltz "Bittersweet," a stately and lyrical dance which fits in well with the traditional works around it.

Behind the Green Bushes might not be what you expect, but it certainly delivers a worthwhile package and is worth checking out.

[ by Tom Knapp ]

Buy it from Amazon.com.