This Kickstarter project has authentic lyrics and a raw, rootsy sound.
Time: 10 tracks / 35 mins
I have known of The Sweet Sorrows front man Sammy Horner for years, from his days in the Celtic rock band The Electrics, so I was looking forward to hearing this one. About three tracks in, I thought, “This isn’t very Celtic; it sounds far more like Americana” – at which point I kicked myself, realising what the whole name meant.
Horner’s music is very different now. It doesn’t rock; it’s pretty slow; Horner’s wife Kylie shares most vocals; and here the Celtic element is more window dressing on Americana than most of the content. (That said, if you doubled up the speed of “A Hundred Years,” whose key line is “May you live a hundred years with one more to repent,” it would probably sound quite like The Electrics.)
My initial reaction was major disappointment, and I put off further plays for longer than I should have, but subsequent hearings uncovered a depth that I didn’t spot at first – particularly in the lyrics.
Husband-and-wife duos like this normally give me the impression of couples who tour small rural bars to top up their earnings with one of them only there because of the relationship. But there is an advantage to their songwriting: real life can break in. Songs like “Heartbreaking Beautiful” and “A Few Scars” do that job here.
The latter explains that they have “a few scars, Baby, that ain’t healed over yet.” It’s this honesty from experience of how relationships can fail that endears them to live audiences and they flash those scars in “The Angel’s Share:”
“I told myself I’d never burn a bridge,
But time it tends to fire up the flame
I’ll watch it till there’s nothing left but ashes in the stream
And you won’t even have to share the blame.”
But two tracks later, they sing, “When anger burns a bridge, forgiveness teaches us to swim."
In between, experience of a broader kind shows, when they set out a few healthy values in... well, you can work out what it’s called:
“I don’t believe in instant stardom; I don’t believe in easy plans
I don’t believe that you get good at anything unless you give it lots of time...
I don’t believe in greedy bankers; I don’t believe in billionaires
I don’t believe in watching children starve, so we can keep our growing share...
I can’t supply you with the answers, for there’s a lot to figure out
I’m pretty sure that every single one needs to leave a little room for doubt.
I don’t believe in drowning sorrows; I don’t believe that life is fair
I don’t believe in doing nothing and then saying that you’re taking it to God in prayer.
I don’t believe in loving money; I don’t subscribe to that point of view
I don’t believe in everything, but I think I believe in you.”
There is a far fuller, bluesy sound to “An Gorta Mor” (which translates in Gaeiic as ‘The Great Hunger’, better known as the Irish Potato Famine). It’s a song that links this tragic event with today’s hunger for truth. Probably the best sounding track, denser guitar and emotive fiddle give this a richness that reveals the hand of producer Phil Madeira, as does “Place Where We Can Rest,” which is a very complete song, tightly written and sounding creamily smooth.
It may be Madeira’s role that makes the release way more Americana than Celtic, but there are some lovely pieces of fiddle in the upbeat and very Irish “Wexford in the Morning” – it’s how The Pogues might sound, if they were Christian and throwing blessings around.
While recognising their own scars, this is essentially an album of healing, as shown in the generous and invitational “A Place that They Can Rest:”
“One came many years ago, these words he had to say
There is a kingdom here and now, and enter it you may
Its built on truth and justice, I speak no word of jest
The best of you, the worst of you, can find a place to rest
Well this was music to the orphan, to the widow’s heart a song
The outcast laughed with joy at last, the place he could belong
And everyone who doubted, everyone who second guessed
They are ushered through a thin veil to a place that they can rest.”