Sheila Ryan,
Samrad Linn
(self-produced, 1997)

Sheila Ryan was born in Limerick, Ireland, to a musical family. Following the natural course of things, Ryan was playing and touring by the time she was a teenager. Thankfully, she is still doing so today. This singer-songwriter plays the Irish harp and guitar, and brings the magic of Ireland to life in her music.

Samrad Linn is Ryan's fourth album, and it shows not only her talent, but the love she has of both music and her heritage. Ryan's music is like the quiet bubbling of a mountain stream, it is soothing and enjoyable. Her voice is rather intriguing -- it has a bit of a warble and she can sure hit the high notes without grating on the nerves. She moves between Gaelic and English without a hitch, and this adds an extra depth and beauty to the songs.

A vast number of musicians and back-up vocalists joined Ryan for this release, and a number of them are rather well known here on the west coast and around the world. I was surprised to see some of them, and the list is too lengthy to include here, so I'll just include a few -- Daniel Lapp (fiddle), Marc Atkinson (rhythm guitar) and Rick van Krugel (banjo, mandolin, backing vocals).

The opening and title track sets the mood for the rest of the disc. "Samrad Linn," according to the liner notes, is "at least 500 years old and is a celebration of the coming of summer. It was used as a folk dance on the occasion of a visit by the Papal Nuncio." The fiddle carries the lyrics, light as gossamer on the wind, in a stately harmony.

"A Veil of Silence" is an original composition by Ryan, and it is "based upon a true story of murder in Ireland." It is a haunting tale, well suited to Ryan's vocals and the plaintive evocative melody. This track is one of my favourites, and I've listened to innumerable times.

It is easy to lose oneself in "Mary and the Seals," with the surf rolling in and out in the background. Bill Gallagher is credited with this song of a young girl who is charmed by the seals in Scotland. This is a particularly long tale, and one which will delight those who are fond of stories about the selkies. Ryan captures all the loss and grief contained in this piece in her voice, while the ocean waves soothe it away.

All of the tracks on this disc are worthy of being played again and again. This is a delightful work, and I'd recommend it to any who like Celtic music. Ryan is a talented artist, and one who won't disappoint you.

- Rambles
written by Naomi de Bruyn
published 21 December 2002

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