If you like Country Music or Americana, with a bit of soul and blues mixed in, you cannot fail to love this album. Ciara Sidine is a Dublin based singer/songwriter and "Unbroken Line" is a follow up to her earlier debut release, "Shadow Road Shining". It has taken some time to emerge, but that only reflects the amount of care and love that has been put into this body of work. Ciara has strong, clear voice which bodes well for her listeners as much of her output has a moral message.
The first track "Finest Flower" is one such and was written in honour of the survivors of the Irish Mother and Baby Homes and Magdalene Laundries, confinement institutions which were run like punishment hostels for unmarried pregnant women. indeed a mass grave containing 155 corpses was uncovered in the convent grounds of one of the laundries. Shockingly these continued in business until well into the last decade of the twentieth century. This haunting song is based on the women's testimony. No doubt the browbeaten women suffered, but in some there remained an indomitable spirit which remained unbroken. This song reflects and honours those girls.
"Woman Of Constant Sorrow" is familiar traditional song originally in the male gender, arranged with new lyrics by Ciara Sidine. "I am a woman of constant sorrow,
I've seen trouble all of my days, I'll bid farewell to old Kentucky, the place where I was born and raised." This version follows the much trodden path of the put upon seeking a new life elsewhere, it compares well with other performances of the song particularly as most notably featured in the film, "Brother where art thou?"
The work song genre is represented by "2 Hard 2 Get 2 Heaven" it contains the lyrics, "Burn the candle at both ends but never watch the flame get lower. Till the things you took for granted, go drifting out of sight like smoke." Then it goes on to say, "lately I been working too hard." It is in this song that we first hear the considerable contribution to this album by Justin Carroll on the Hammond organ. Such an instrument is not often seen in a country band, but in this case it works perfectly.
Ciara writes a good waltz. "Watching The Dark" is a sad reflective song in which she wrote in collaboration with Conor Brady. The setting is in the light radiated by candle light. "The promises you made fell true, but the truth only stretches so far. Just for tonight I feel less alone watching the dark." Conor also augments the feel of the song with an atmospheric guitar.
To lighten the mood, "Wooden Bridge" is a good ole cheerful country hootenanny which bounds along at a cracking place Which defies you not to get let your toe get tapping.
"River Road" A regretful song of things that might have been. "I walked along the twisted track where the city creeps like fire all around in no man's land you walk away and don't look back the river like a prayer through some unholy ground" It further talks about enjoying the riverbank before the evening chill comes down, then "I still can feel the warm grass beneath my back. laying on the banks listening to the endless sound" (of the water flowing). The refrain rings true for all those that have lived,
tracks get turned
Life gets changed
Open space beneath the sun
these were the fields that watched us grow
the river waters flow
Promises you couldn't keep
Down the road"
The imagination (and perhaps experience) of someone so young to write those words is sobering to those of us with more decades under our belts than we like to admit. Ciara is a really good wordsmith as well as a musician.
"Take Me With You" is a gentle love song from the girl who wants to go away with the boyfriend. She has faith in that he will come through OK and she wants to share his life. It would be someone extremely hard of heart to resist such blandishments.
"Let Me Drive Your Train." No modern country album is complete with out a "train" song. This is not the typical driving along at speed in "City of New Orleans" style. This is more a slow train of love, which pictures a woman walking alongside the slow moving train pleading with the driver (boyfriend) she promises him many benefits. Other means of transports are available and they mostly all get a mention in this song.
"Trouble Come Find Me" This feminist protest song has an ethereal feel to it. The bluesy style in which Ciara voices it reminded me of a early Dusty Springfield.
"I have a fire in my belly been there since I was a little girl.
I sat and listened to the women talking in the far away hills where I was born
I sat and listened where they gathered heard a malevolence in their words
smoke and fire and precious things that mattered some wonder of a woman's world.
sister reach your hand out to me these hands were made to hold."
I make no apology for reproducing the essence of the lyrics here as I find their significance warrants wider exposure.
"Unbroken line" equates to life in a street of dreams except in common with many small town centres at the moment, the paint is peeling and the shops are shuttered. However keep your eyes to the light and search for the future and that unbroken line. A heartening message, encouraging further advance and overcoming any difficulties and disappointments that may fall your way.
"Let The Rain Fall" Betrayal in waltz time... Fed me crooked lies.... A story not unknown in country songs,, this one however is better than most. It's not tears in my eyes, it's the rain falling in my eyes. Brilliant electric guitar by Conor supplements a superb and passionate vocal from Ciara.
"Little Bird Song" Ciara demonstrates her command of writing in 3/4 time with this pleasant little song. She duets through most of the song with her self perhaps(?) but I note that she thanks her backing singers on the sleeve notes, either way it is a gentle song to close one of the most enjoyable CD's I have been called upon to review. As an illustration of that, my wife and I had the album on loop play throughout an entire road trip recently, we only switched it off because the CD player overheated.
I hope Ciara Sidine tours the UK soon, it will be well worth making the effort to go and see the concert.
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