(Borealis, 2000)

When I get a CD to review I put it on the player blind -- I refuse to look at labels, insets and promotional material until my second or third time through the music. Later, I write the review as I listen again.

When I put Smilin' on the first time I did not want it to end -- ever. Each track led into another that I loved. I was hooked. Now after the entire review ritual I feel the same.

Sirens use all genres of music to tell stories that mean something to them.

On a CD full of great songs, "Beautiful Blue" manages to stand out as my favourite. Sirens member Jo-Ann Lawton wrote it and if the liner notes are to be believed it was done in an hour as a challenge to write about Lake Huron waters. It is a beautiful song about the family of a seafarer.

"Smilin at Somebody Else" is a track that lifts the spirits on the worst of days. "Heeding the Warning" is a fascinating modern folk song with every woman from our fairy tales combined and brought into modern city life. The lyrics are witty and fresh, the bodhran driving and the recorder an interesting addition that all combine to make a great tune.

"When Push Comes to Shove" revolves around the abuse of control. "No such thing as compromise since you came along and everything I say or do the final say gets said by you."

The band is not afraid to tackle strong subjects. "Em's Song" looks with very real compassion at a mother suffering from Alzheimer's disease. Sung a cappella, it will touch the heart of anyone with a parent. Siren follows this with the lovely "Margaret's Waltz," which tells a lighthearted tale of a woman seeking romance: "She falls into love 'cause she falls without mind."

"All Through the Night" is a song that reaffirms the value of friendship, especially in difficult times. "Good Son, Good Daughter" is another strong song that brings family values to the fore: "A parent's sweet love keeps walking beside us, a step at a time we carry them home."

"Rocking" is a new lullaby written by Donna Creighton for her son's 16th birthday. In writing it, she has written an anthem for parents who raised their children well, almost without realizing they do it.

This is a CD beyond classification. The songs -- all written by group members and if the notes are to be believed, in very short periods -- are varied but all tell a tale that we can relate to. They use hooks of old-time songs interspersed on some. Others are all the stronger for being done a cappella. Some tracks haunt the mind and you will be humming them for weeks.

Look for this CD, play it, enjoy it and don't keep it a secret. Everyone deserves to hear this album and I want to hear more Siren songs.

- Rambles
written by Nicky Rossiter
published 21 December 2002

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