West of Eden,
(West of Music, 2006)

We are familiar with the tales of Viking raids in times of yore, when the Scandinavian marauders pillaged and raided the coastal towns of the British Isles and later settled and gave rise to the towns we know today. But now we have a genetic conundrum passed by West of Eden, a fantastic Swedish group.

Did the genes of the raiders help to establish the music we now call Irish or did they take back a music gene from the old Irish population that has been transmitted over the centuries to members of this band? Whatever the answer, put on this album without knowing its roots and I defy you to identify the country of origin.

On a dozen tracks West of Eden -- don't you just love the name? -- brings us the best of contemporary folk in a Celtic idiom. Jenny Schaub, the lead female singer, has a wonderful vocal ability ideally suited to these original compositions.

Opening with the wonderfully titled "Auburn Skies," the album captures the imagination and will hold it to the final bar of the final track. "The Words I Forgot to Say" is one of the best lost-love songs I have heard in a long while. Just listen to lines like "In a little tin box on my bed stand; Lies a gold ring and a fingered note; And there between the lines and faded letters; All the words that got stuck in my throat."

They follow on with "True Believer," an upbeat song that combines a great beat, a sort of Swedish/Irish mouth music and beautiful lyrics. They retain this marvelous lyrical magic on "Ghost of You." Listening to their use of the English language, it is so easy to forget that this is not their first language. They put many a lyricist born and bred to English to shame.

It is impossible to pick a favourite track from this album; every one has great merit and will entrance the listener. OK, I will stick my neck out and pick a favourite, especially for the lyrics. That track has to be "Time," a song that revisits a theme used so often by others but for writing a strong delivery, West of Eden get my vote. "Time is a joker, time is a thief; Time leaves you trembling like summer's last leaves; Time is killer ruthless and strong; One day you're living, the next day you're gone."

To confirm that Jenny is not the only voice of the group, Martin Schaub takes over on "My Kind of Town."

Listening to this album one is reminded of pop music and 1974 when a Swedish group revitalized the industry. Maybe in 2006 West of Eden will help attract an even wider audience to the contemporary folk scene.

by Nicky Rossiter
25 February 2006

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