Charlie Zahm,
Among the Heather
(independent, 2005)

Charlie Zahm is a big man with a powerful and expressive singing voice. Listening to him sing Scottish and Irish music is like a deep draught of a thick, heady stout, rich in taste and body.

His latest recording, Among the Heather, is more like a luxurious dram of Irish cream -- smooth and sweet, yet intoxicating all the same. For the most part, Heather is devoid of the more boisterous end of the spectrum, so don't go looking for rowdy sing-along songs about drinking and fighting. This album tends to the more romantic side of Celtic music, and Zahm accordingly reins himself in on tracks including the traditional "Among the Heather," a bouncy, high-spirited song about a chance encounter, "Queen of Connemara," an absolutely lovely 19th-century song paying homage to a boat, and "Sweet Thames Flow Softly," a tender love song dancing delicately by the river.

Exceptions to this rule are "Banks of Newfoundland," "Bonnie Ship the Diamond" and "Whoop Jamboree," all three of which come from the nautical traditions and require more vigor.

Besides several traditional songs, Zahm includes a few well-known covers: "Braes of Balquidder" (Tannahill), "Sweet Thames Flow Softly (MacColl), "My Cavan Girl" (Moore) and "Song for the Mira" (MacGillivray), among others. The only song out of place on the disc is Lerner and Lowe's "If Ever I Would Leave You" from the 1960 musical Camelot. It's not a bad song, and it's certainly lovingly rendered here, but it's somewhat incongruous in this collection of songs.

The album closes with a lively take on "Gallawa Hills," an energetic track that leaves you wanting more.

I'm never disappointed with Charlie Zahm, be it at the microphone or on the stereo. Among the Heather continues a mighty singing tradition that shows no sign of losing steam.

- Rambles
written by Tom Knapp
published 30 July 2005

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