Listening to Stonecircle is like stepping back in time, a beautiful, haunted time in which you experience the whole fabric of Celtic musical tradition.
The Utah-based band was formed in 1993 and fuses traditional Celtic music with folk, jazz and even classical elements to provide a sound decidedly its own, though some features are reminiscent of other groups. That familiarity does not diminish the talent assembled in this band or the music it plays.
The 11 tracks on Winter Sky share a winter solstice/Christmas theme, but the music can be enjoyed at any time of the year.
It's difficult to name favorites from such a rich selection of beautiful music. From the first, "The Snows They Melt the Soonest," with its lovely flute and the glorious vocals of Mary Johnston-Coursey, to the final piece, "The Martinmass Wind," the album is a joy. Pressed for favorites, I'd have to name the lively "Wind in the Rye," the Appalachian ballad "Shady Grove" and the ethereal "Planxty Eleanor Plunkett."
Members of Stonecircle are Krista Baker, violin and fiddle; Nina Cooley, flute, percussion and background vocals; Brian Dobson, Irish whistle, low whistle, uilleann pipes, bodhran and duck calls; Mary Johnston-Coursey, vocals, whistle and percussion; and George Schoemaker, 12-string guitar and background vocals. Joining the band for this album as special guests are Irminsul on Celtic harp and keyboards, Clive Romney on percussion and Cyrus Gardner on keyboards on "Persephone's Dream."
This is the fourth album for the band and, hopefully, there'll be many more.
John R. Lindermuth
19 May 2007