The Greenfields and the Mountains High
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The Irish skylark is known for both the loveliness of its song and for its distinctive warble. Call Beth Gadbaw a Rocky Mountain version of the skylark. The Boulder, Colorado-based Gadbaw has released a 12-track debut album of Irish songs, nine of which are traditional. The best known of these are "The Journeyman Tailor" and "The Road to Clady." The second is nicely covered–Gadbaw's high soprano dueling with Jessie Burns' deliberately raw fiddle. (Do I detect a touch of tinker styling in it? Yes—I think I do!) The remaining three songs are a W. B. Yeats poem set to music ("Innisfree') and two Gadbaw originals. Her "Grania," honors Grace O'Malley—also known as Granuaile–a female pirate who was thorn in the backside of England's Queen Elizabeth I. On a more personal note, Gadbaw's "Thomas Watson" mine letters sent from Montana to Ireland by her grandmother's great uncle, who fled the Famine. Appropriately, Gadbaw gives this song a robust treatment, though it's just her voice and heavily accented bodhran raising the ruckus. A personal favorite is "Last Night Being Windy," a jauntily paced traditional that takes full advantage of the instrumentalists that joined her in the studio.
Gadbaw has a very clear and very high soprano voice with the aforementioned warble. It invites the adjective "sweet" as do most of this album's arrangements. It's also decidedly female in shape—all of the backing voices are female, and women also play most of the instruments. This makes for an intimate album, though one that occasionally cries out for more contrasting bottom to the vocals. (Maybe a few altos?) Still, it's a very nice effort for a debut, so let's not nitpick. Rob Weir