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Produced by Dirk Powell (key member in Joan Baez and Rhiannon Giddens’ band) in his Breaux Bridge, Louisiana recording studio Kyle Carey’s latest album (her third) has, as expected some fine players and vocalists aid the travelled performer. Once a full-time waitress, the New Hampshire-born Scottish Gaelic inspired performer also has a wonderful understanding of traditional Irish music. Carey actually made her professional debut playing in 2011 in Dingle, Co Kerry. Earlier still after college, she travelled to Cape Breton on a Fulbright Fellowship to study Celtic music.
Next step taken was for her to spend a year on the Isle of Skye as she studied Scottish Gaelic, intensively with Christine Primrose, and with her now about to turn thirty Carey is still studying. Only now it is how best to use the tones of the former with folk music of America, primarily. The kind influenced by the criss-crossing of the Atlantic from the British Isles up into the Appalachian hills and beyond. Producer Powell’s influence and understanding of the latter is an area she will no doubt have tapped into, and with him playing extensively on the record (bass, fiddle, mandolin, guitar, backing vocals, accordion, banjo and piano) aided by John McCusker (fiddle), Mike McGoldrick (flute), Sam Broussard (guitar), James Mackintosh (percussion), Ron Janssen (Octave mandolin), Kai Welch (trumpet), Josh Scalf (trombone) plus backing vocals from Rhiannon Giddens, Liz Simmons and Gillebride Mac IlleMhaoil Carey’s eclectic combination of work is beautifully presented.
Carey’s drawing on Gaelic music and Appalachia The Art Of Forgetting is a big project in itself, but to also convert an old American gospel hymn “Down The River To Pray” to Scottish Gaelic, and be inspired by a Child Ballad, Yeats, McNeil, Frost and poems by West Virginian Louise McNeill plus work of Charles Dickens the depth of the record is immense. That is not the end of it, because for one song she checked-out John Hiatt’s Crossing Muddy Water, and she includes a cover of a Scottish mouth music song. Last but not least, she also tenders a version of the Nanci Griffith – Rick West’s composition “Trouble In The Fields”. Phew! At last you can draw breath! Now that is what you call a sizeable undertaking, her producer Dirk and friends from his TransAtlantic Sessions days have together (plus his continued thirst to learn more about traditional music) ensured her work is seen in the best light possible. Powell's work on banjo, piano and fiddle (alongside that of McCusker and McGoldrick) is masterful!
Among the highlights, and there’s more emerging everyday as the music of this stylish performer melts into my subconscious. Her handling of opening cut “The Art Of Forgetting” reminded me of Natalie Merchant’s artistic style. While Carey’s version of “Siubhail a Ruin” is a sheer delight, and on showing much grace, the gentle fiddle, guitar and flute warmed “Come Back To Me” takes the listener to a heavenly place; and in the moving “Sios Dhan An Abhainn” (“Down To The River To Pray”) she genuinely reaches a great height. Although I would have liked to had more emphasis on the vocals, and more space allowed but my preference isn’t for every one.
“For Your Journey” is as stripped down tender as they come piece. Performed a cappella style, Carey with support from either or both Mac IlleMhaoil and Simmons produces something most special. You can feel and measure the stillness and beauty. On displaying more freedom, and yet more grace a song written whilst in Louisiana “Evelyna” powers forth as much imagery is released. Her grasp of Gaelic is outstanding and demonstrated in wonderful fashion by piano warmed ‘mouth song’ “Puirt A Beul”; learnt from the singing of Christine Primrose and Mari MacInnes her performance is mesmerising. As already noted,Carey does a version of “Trouble In The Fields”, and with fiddle, flute and piano, plus harmony vocals accompaniment she does full justice to the iconic composition.
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