Reviews

Cathryn Craig and Brian WilloughbyCathryn Craig and Brian Willoughby
Album: In America
Label: Carbitunes
Tracks: 16
Website: http://www.craigandwilloughby.com

I think 2016 is going to be a good year. It certainly is if the standard of music is a good as this. For make no mistake, this is an acoustic gem.

Beautifully recorded in Nashville, the stellar vocals of Cathryn Craig and the superlative tinkling guitar of Brian Willoughby have never sounded better.

Cathryn's voice has a fragile, endearing, sparkling quality and it takes centre stage on the lilting title track which tells the tale of Irish U.S. Immigrants after the potato famine.

The quality shines throughout. Cathryn and Brian have gathered a superb group of musicians to put this album together. There are excellent contributions littered throughout. The accordion and whistles of Jeff Taylor are put to good effect and the cello on the touching A Soft Place To Fall is a joy.

I have to admit to being excited to receive this album after Cathryn and Brian released a taster last year which whetted my appetite. Malahide Moon is here with its wonderful guitar runs and sounds just as good as it did when I first heard it.

There's more scintillating guitar on the simple love song, Eyes Open Wide, which again showcases Cathryn's wonderful vocal performance - such power and poise.

There are a couple of songs where the writing credits are shared with other musicians, We're Walking Each Other Home, was written with Brent Noyer, and is a beautifully crafted multi-layered song which highlights what a cracking job Thomm Jutz has done in recording this album.

The Fire, a song from Brian's Black and White solo album, is revisited here and sounds just great. Crystal clear vocals and delicate acoustic guitars conjure up a magical sound. I particularly enjoyed the guitar breaks. Wonderful stuff.

The songs on this album are influenced by many sources, there's Irish whistles and accordions, and plenty of different guitars.

I think These Old Stone Walls will become a concert favourite. Here it features sweet accordion and whistles. It's a song that came about during a trip around Ireland and imagines what kind of song we would hear if the stone walls could sing…indeed. It's one of those songs with a simple chorus that you can't help joining in with.

Another co-write, this time with Bill Mead, of UK R'n'B band The Sharpees, Bullet has more up-tempo modern feel about it with it's12-string motif and banjo in the mix.

The great songs just keep on coming - there are 12 songs on the album plus no less than four bonus tracks.

Whatever Is For You has a lilting tune, with the whistle and accordion again high in the mix. A word here about the superb drumming - it propels the song perfectly.

Brian's superb guitar sparkles throughout.

One very welcome surprise here is the inclusion of song by one of the North East's popular duos, Jiva. One More Song carries a sentiment that anyone who enjoys music will appreciate. Jimmy of Jiva passed away last year and this version is spot on.

You certainly get value for money here, I particularly like the personal notes on each of the songs and the album is well packaged with a booklet full of lyrics.

The bonus tracks are something special - the first is Cathryn and Brian's take on the classic, You've Lost That Lovin' Feelin'. The stripped down approach is just great. Guitars, bass and drums and Cathryn singing her heart out. Sublime.

Mary Hopkin's classic song Those Were The Days gets a similar treatment.

But one of the highlights of the entire album is Alice's Song, dedicated to all children with special needs. A simple song with a special message. Loved it.

The final track - count them, there's sixteen in all - is the most country-sounding song on the album. I Will is a song about determination. Again it's a simple song that is perfectly executed. Fittingly the album fades out with the musicians playing their hearts out

This entire album is without a doubt, an acoustic gem. Enjoy!

John Knighton