The Irish song tradition is really many traditions, the main lines either the more loud and boisterous sound of groups like The Dubliners, or the more gentle approach of ensembles like Planxty and Patrick Street. I find it hard to choose between them, which one I pick is entirely up to what mood I am in.
Colleen Raney is a representative of that second line, with a soft voice and backings to match it. She is from Portland, Oregon. This her fourth album was mostly recorded in Dublin in the summer of 2013, and it might as well have been by an Irish singer.
Raney has recruited a number of musicians to play and sing on the album, including producer and guitarist Aidan Brennan, Trevor Hutchinson on bass, Aaron Jones on bouzouki and Hanz Araki on vocals. Together they have created a nice mix of sounds, sometimes soft jazzy like “The Cruel Brother”, sometimes just Raney’s and a single instrument. One of the latter is “Sanctuary” from which the title of the album is taken. Only a piano to back it up. There are also a couple of songs with just Raney and Brennan’s guitar. “Colliery Boy” is a gripping song about a young boy starting his work as a miner, and there is a slow beautiful reading of “The Nightingale”, with Brennan playing a soft, very slow guitar solo.
I must confess I like Raney best on these slow songs. She does credit to the quicker ones as well, but I feel her voice is more suited to the slow ones. She really lifts some of them to new heights, and listening to her versions of songs like “The Nightingale” makes time stand still for a little while.
Not an album for people looking for folk rock, and there are too many newly written songs for those who are out looking only for traditional stuff, but for the rest of us it is a nice album to relax to after a pressing day at work.
(Little Sea Records, 2013)