KYLE CAREY – The Art Of Forgetting (Riverboat Records TUG 1109)

The Art Of ForgettingThe Art Of Forgetting is Kyle Carey’s third album. Carey describes her style as ‘Gaelic Americana’. ‘Gaelic Americana’ is a fusion of Celtic and Appalachian musical traditions – and if that sounds odd, it’s worth understanding the depth of Carey’s musical knowledge: a Fulbright Fellowship to begin her study of Gaelic language and its music; a two-year stay on Skye and tutoring from one of Scotland’s most revered traditional singers; a knowledge of bluegrass, gospel, jazz and Appalachian ballads and fiddle tunes. It works. It more than works, the result is a luxurious sound, luxurious in the sense that you put the CD on, sit back and luxuriate in the music washing over you.

The video below is the title track of the album. Musically you can hear the distinctive mix of influences that have led to the name Gaelic Americana – a swirling fiddle, a gentle acoustic guitar, and a voice with phrasing as delicate as traditional Gaelic singers. Lyrically it’s a song of love lost – the autumn imagery contrasting with memory of summer “Summer sang in me once/it’s quiet this fall”. It moves from colour to black and white both metaphorically and descriptively “Colours all round me these days/Magpies painting the ground/I stopped seeing the reds and the golds/When you stopped coming around” – the imagery of Romantic Poetry turned into lyrics.

The album glides on, through a jazzy take on the traditional ‘Siubhail A Ruin’ and a Cajun waltz, ‘Come Back To Me’. The fourth track, ‘Opal Grey’, is just delightful – the most luxurious track on the album, so much so that I’ve had to force myself to listen to the lyrics rather than just be absorbed in the feel of the song. It’s another tale of love lost, but it’s also a tale of how the whole person has become lost “Every time I think the rain has stopped/the skies return to Opal Grey/And I am lost again in my own storm/without a star to guide the way”. We’ve probably all known those times.

‘Tell Me Love’ is a positive tale of love, with banjo and mandolin driving a gentle song full of nature imagery. In the middle of the album are a couple of songs of passion – ‘Sweet Damnation’, a cheery tune for a tale of passion “that would make a rosebud blush” and ‘Tillie Sage’ a re-telling of the Miss Havisham story of passion thwarted but not decayed. This is probably my favourite song on the album with old-style American finger picking, a fiddle haunting the vocals, and a gentle (really) banjo. A beautiful song.

I couldn’t place the tune I recognised behind ‘Sios Dahn An Abhainn’ until the sleeve notes pointed out that it’s “a Louisiana flavoured, soulful interpretation of the classic American psalm ‘Down to the River’ translated into Scottish Gaelic and flavoured with the Bayou” – another gently lovely song, and those notes reinforce how this album combines the American and Gaelic traditions into something distinctive. It then moves seamlessly to the gospel-inspired ‘For Your Journey’, duetting with Rhiannon Giddens. By now you have a sense of ‘Gaelic Americana’ and the album finishes with three more songs that unite the two traditions, including a fine version of Nancy Griffiths’ ‘Trouble In The Fields’ slightly held back and decorated with fiddle, percussion, piano and backing vocals of the full band.

As a whole, the album is gem of luxurious sounds, songs of love in many of its forms, natural imagery (reflected in the greenness of the cover above) and it stands on a highly trained knowledge of both Celtic and American traditions that allows Carey to create something unforced (The Art Of Forgetting is for listening to, not an academic exercise) and rather lovely.

Kyle Carey is on tour in the UK in late May/early June, predominantly in Scotland, with one gig in Wales and one in England.

Mike Wistow

Artist’s website:

‘The Art Of Forgetting’ – official video: