ATLANTIC UNION – Indulgence (Blue Island Records CD 20191)

IndulgenceWhen I reviewed the last CD from Atlantic Union here, I noted that “I’m looking forward to hearing where they take us next.” Their new CD Indulgence was indeed worth waiting for, and while it includes a few familiar songs, the band goes further into exploring its own music with nine original tracks. The band are Sally Goddard (vocals, guitar, bodhrán/percussion); Dan Rubin (vocals, violin, viola, bouzouki, guitar, mando-uke, string bass, octave mandolin, bass guitar, mandolin); Jane Ogilvie (Celtic harp. accordion, piano, vocals, tongue drum). And here’s the track listing. ​

  1. ‘Forest Flower’ features some rather pretty guitar introducing a pleasant song by Dan Rubin.
  2. The well-known ‘Star Of The County Down’ is credited as ‘traditional’ here, though the words are usually credited to Cathal McGarvey . It features the distinctive vocals of Sally Goddard and Jane Ogilvie’s harp, as well as Dan Rubin’s tastefully arranged strings. While this description may make it sound a little orchestral, it’s actually very appropriate, with Sally’s vocals containing just enough ornamentation to remind us that she’s an unusually gifted folkie, not an opera singer slumming. J
  3. Jane Ogilvie’s ‘You Can Do This’ has a slightly Palm Court feel with its piano and violin, yet ruthlessly dissects some of the comforting clichés we offer our friends at times of stress. Actually, I really like it, and Sally shows that she’s just as comfortable with a very different style of singing.
  4. ‘Where Does Mother Go?’ is another of Jane’s songs, and it’s stunning. It will certainly ring whole peals of bells for anyone who’s experienced some form of dementia at close quarters. The melody and arrangement are a perfect match for the lyric. Sally eschews undue histrionics and lets the lyric speak for itself. Outstanding.
  5. Thematically, Sally’s ‘Gabriella Joyce’ invites comparison with Carol Hall’s ‘Jenny Rebecca’. I tend to associate the latter with the singing of Frederica Von Stade, which makes for stiff competition. All credit to Sally, then, for coming up with a song and performance that are equally effective, and will undoubtedly please the ears of many parents, not just Gabriella’s. 30 years after the birth of my own daughter, Sally’s song still tugs at my heartstrings.
  6. Dylan’s ‘The Hour That The Ship Comes In’ is more laidback than the version recorded by Peter, Paul and Mary. It’s a decent version, but not one of my favourite songs at the best of times.
  7. The intro to Jane’s song ‘Murmansk Run’ rather cleverly transplants a quote from ‘What Shall We Do With A Drunken Sailor’ into a very Russian-sounding arrangement. Pastiche is a risky approach to a serious topic: pseudo-Russian music is more often associated with more humorous material such as Vera Johnson’s ‘The Minx From Pinsk’ or Tom Lehrer’s ‘Lobachevsky’. And there’s not a lot of humour to be found in a song remembering the incredibly dangerous Arctic convoys of World War II, sending lease-lend aid to the USSR. And yet after a few hearings, it seems to work rather well. Very nicely done.
  8. Dan’s ‘Under Full Sail’ is an instrumental set slightly reminiscent of Steeleye Span. Which is by no means a bad thing.
  9. ‘So We’ll Go No More A-Roving’ brings back some personal memories for me, as it’s one of the songs Sally and I did as a duo back in the late 60s. This version is even better! Sally’s voice is accompanied here only by harp, but subsequently, Dan’s strings pick up the theme for an instrumental version. The setting of Byron’s poem is credited here to Maude Valérie White, whose setting was indeed one of the earliest of many, but this is the melody from the setting by Richard Dyer-Bennet.
  10. ‘Port Mahon’ is a lovely version of Sydney Carter’s beautiful song.
  11. ‘The Axeman’ features Jane Ogilvie’s vocals, and turns out to be about wooden ships, not a serial killer or even Omen’s heavy-metal executioner. An interesting song by New Brunswick composer Douglas Carter, and sung rather well.
  12. Dan’s ‘I Do Not Feel The Giant Clams’ is a little weird – I guess you had to be there, and kayak is not my natural environment – but the band evidently had fun recording it.
  13. ‘Sonata Celtique’ successfully combines Jane’s piano with Dan’s violin. A good set of tunes from Jane.
  14. Dan’s ‘Way-O Way-O’ (not the similarly titled Joss Stone track) has a rough-hewn Caribbean-ish feel. I’m not averse to a little such pastiche – my wife and I frequently remind each other to put the lime in the coconut – and it’s an enjoyable way to finish.

It’s good to hear a band that clearly still has fun making an album, and Indulgence also has several outstanding moments with considerable emotional impact. In fact, ‘Where Does Mother Go?’ and ‘Gabriella Joyce’ are worth the price of the CD all by themselves. I hope to hear a lot more of their original material in future.

David Harley

Artist’s website: http://www.atlanticunion.ca/

Read David Harley’s review of Atlantic Union’s Homeward here.


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