Gráinne Holland released Corcra on February 1st. This is her third album, but Corcra is the first album of her own original material. Holland was born and raised in Belfast, bi-lingual in both English and Gaelic, and with a love of Irish music from her early years.
When I got the chance to review the album, I did what I always do – listened briefly to Holland’s music on YouTube – thought it was rather nice….but also pointed out that I don’t speak Gaelic and maybe someone else should get the chance first? The succinct reply I got was “I don’t speak Gaelic either but I love the sound of it” – the album was immediately in the post. A third person, a singer, walking past the door when I was playing the album, loved the sound of it. So, from a random sample of three, we have 100% agreement that Corcra is a delight – whether you understand its full subtleties (just over half the album is Gaelic songs) or just feel the beauty of the music and the singing.
The video below is of ‘Lon Dubh an Gheimhridh’ where you can hear Holland breathily giving voice to a beautiful, slow song about Black Winter “I often experience a sadness in winter when the days grow shorter, the trees lose their leaves and everything seems to sleep. I wrote this song about that feeling” is her description of the song. I sent the YouTube link to an Irish friend who gave me some translations and included in her reply was the comment “Atmospheric, but not cheerful”. Holland’s songwrititng clearly hits the spot she was wanting to capture (and by now I have four out of four positive reviews to elements of this album).
There are optimistic songs on here as well. The album opens with ‘Mise agus Tusa’ (Me And You) which is “a love song I wrote about my husband” and ‘Coinsias, Corp agus Croi’ “a song I wrote about beginning to feel alive again after a very dark time in my life”, the first track skipping along and the second more thoughtful but with a rising chorus. ‘Ni Chluinim, Ni Fheicim’ bounds along, appropriately for a song about “focusing on the positive and beautiful things in life rather than the negative”.
‘Goodbye Love’ is what it says, a song about saying goodbye but both musically and lyrically is a grown-up farewell – slow-ish tune, but not mournful, with a lyric that includes emotionally mature lines such as “My heart will always hold a piece of you/Goodbye love”; ‘Harry’s’ is a song about Holland’s late father; ‘Beal Feirste’ a tribute to hometown Belfast as Holland leaves the city for the countryside; ‘An Ri Rua’ is “ a song about two little birds who died together after flying into my window at home” – I have no idea about the lyrics, but I love the musicality of the song.
There is a consistently quality to Corcra, Holland’s vocals holding you throughout the album, supported by a range of musicians and a rather nice production by Brian Finnegan. My favourite track, if it’s possible to choose given this level of consistent quality, is the closing track ‘Miracle’ a song written after the birth of Holland’s first child. It’s quite simple both lyrically and musically (piano and vocal mostly) “miracle of mine/a creation so divine…..when I take your hand in mine I see forever/what’s gone before, what’s now and what’s to come”. But, though simple, it avoids sentimentality and captures that sheer joy of new birth and the way it changes our perception of ourselves and our surrounding world.
Holland’s earlier albums were traditional songs in contemporary arrangements, Corcra shows that she can also compose her own powerfully atmospheric songs – great to listen to even though I don’t understand all the lyrics. There are no gigs planned at the moment but I’d think this is an album worth a tour/festival sometime soon.
Artist’s website: https://www.grainneholland.com/grainne/
‘Lon Dubh an Gheimhridh’: