Flame of Wine
(independent, 2005)

I first listened to this album on New Years Eve 2005. In fact, I listened to it about five times in a row and as I sit to write this review on Jan. 1, I believe I have found one of my favourite albums of 2006 already. Apart from the excellent content of the CD, the voice is difficult to categorize but it is captivating, innocent, warm, sensual and more.

Growing up in Ireland, one has the Irish language drummed -- not beaten, as some commentators may like to write -- into us from our earliest schooldays. This can give us a love of the language -- or not. Sadly, for the majority it can alienate us from our heritage and cause us to hate all things Gaelic. If we were to learn the "Gaelige" from albums like this one, a bit later in life, we might retain our love of it.

Lasairfhiona -- both her name and the Irish for the title of the CD -- hails from the Aran Islands and on this, her second album, she presents us with a combination of old and new music in a mixture of Irish and English. Because, like me, Irish is probably not the first language of the readers, I will refer in the main to the English titles of the songs on offer.

She opens with a beautiful song called "The Song of Lies." This version that gives free rein to the singer's wonderful voice stems from a fragment of an Aran Island version of the song. Apparently a singer was required to compose a song that contained no truth whatsoever. Spin-doctors do the same today but without the music.

As well as singing like an angel, this young lady also works to preserve the traditional songs of Ireland and does it beautifully on "Dark Haired Woman of the Glen."

I remember reviewing a great album by Joe Heaney some years back. One of his songs was "Johnny is the Fairest One," but I am sure that most will agree that Lasairfhiona does a marvelous version on this CD. She does more than justice to the traditional music, but this girl has another string to her bow. She is an excellent writer. Drawing on the tradition in story and style she brings the past to beautiful life on "Galleon," recalling the connections of Galway and Spain.

Taking a song that her grandmother sang, adding some new lyrics and singing it in Gaelic, we get a beautiful soft song to the same tune as "Carrigfergus" called "The Lonely Valley." This is my favourite of favourites on a wonderful album. From a tune that is so well known she moves to one of the best known of the sean-nos songs, "An Raibh Tu ar an gCarraig?" and gives a moving rendition. From the solemn she takes us on a fantasy "The Rabbit's Dance" using a lively children's song.

Over 14 tracks this album will do a lot to bring you back to the beauty of the Irish language as a medium for song every bit as beautiful as French or other romance languages. In addition to the wonderful performances you get an insert booklet with bilingual lyrics and some background to the songs.

This lady will go well beyond her native island with well-deserved airplay, but in the meantime you true music lovers may need to make that little extra effort to experience the sublime.

by Nicky Rossiter
18 February 2006

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