Anne Roos,
A Light in the Forest
(Cambria, 2007)

If you've ever wished that Renaissance Faire musicians were a little less drunk and a little more classy -- no offense, Tom! -- you're likely to enjoy harpist Anne Roos's A Light in the Forest, on which 18 light-filled instrumentals played by Anne and her ensemble make for a gentle afternoon in a magical forest.

The music is a thoughtfully chosen collection of old English hornpipes, tunes by Robert Burns and O'Carolan, and original compositions, all united by their lilting sound and forest motif. Within these forests, you'll find fairies, witches, bears, Robin Hood and even a bit of Shakespeare.

The CD opens with the traditional hornpipe "Considine's Grove," an airy harp solo that is gradually joined by flute, fiddle and guitar for a fleet-footed melody evocative of a fairy dancing ring. With its delicate sound and tempo, it sets the tone for the rest of the CD, which blends more or less seamlessly together.

While it's not easy to pick out standout tracks, fiddler Dorothy Hawkinson's composition "Artemesia" is a lovely, flowing waltz, and guitarist Allan Fuller does full justice to the 17th-century tune "Robin is to the Greenwood Gone," swapping guitar for lute but retaining the tune's dignified, Old World feel. Anne's harp gives the CD much of its ephemeral quality, yet never monopolizes the limelight, and the musicianship, if never awe-inspiring, is good -- with the single exception of "The Golden Ring," which is marred by ragged synchronization.

As with Anne's earlier release Mermaids & Mariners, this CD boasts unusually thorough and beautiful liner notes with details about each of the songs and artists, plus plenty of illustrations and folklore about fairies and woods. As a native Californian, I was pleased to discover that a few of the tracks were inspired by California's redwoods.

Bottom line: like its subject matter, A Light in the Forest is pleasantly evocative and sprightly, if not entirely substantial.

[ visit the artist's website ]

review by
Jennifer Mo

5 July 2008

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