GRÁINNE HOLLAND – Corcra (Gráinne Holland GH003)

CorcraGráinne 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.

Mike Wistow

Artist’s website: https://www.grainneholland.com/grainne/

‘Lon Dubh an Gheimhridh’:

Gráinne Holland releases her first album of original songs

Gráinne Holland

Corcra is Gráinne’s first album of her own original songs. It was produced by renowned musician Brian Finnegan, recorded by Seán Óg Graham and features the best of Irish and Scottish musicians including Aidan O’Rourke, Liam Bradley, Brendan Mullholland and Cormac Mac Carthy. When it comes to the songs, the stunning opener is ‘Mise Agus Tusa’, meaning me and you, a beautiful song written for her husband Frainc, Harry’s, a song about her father which she wrote shortly after his death in 2007 and ‘Lonn Dubh an Gheimhridh’ which describes the sadness that we often experience in winter when the days grow shorter, the trees lose their leaves and everything seems to sleep. Gráinne wrote this song about just that feeling. On a lighter note we have ‘Miracle’, written after the birth of her first son and ‘Béal Feirste’, a tribute to her home town of Belfast.

Born and raised in Belfast, Gráinne’s love of Irish music and song began at an early age. A product of the Gaelic language revival in the North of Ireland, she was brought up with both Gaelic and English and attended the first Gaelic-medium school in Belfast. It was here that her love of traditional song was fostered.

Gráinne released her debut album of traditional songs with contemporary arrangements; Teanga na nGael in 2011 to great critical acclaim. She followed it up with a second studio album Gaelré in 2015 which was published under the Gael Linn label. Gráinne has toured and performed at many major festivals both at home and abroad. She is also a successful producer and presenter in Irish language media.

“Gráinne’s voice soars and swoops and glides like a swallow in the sublime Irish summer sky” Damien Dempsey

Artist’s website: www.grainneholland.com

‘Lonn Dubh an Gheimhridh’ – official video: