And, now as I promised recently, I shall give you all a review of Orla Fallon's Christmas/ winter-themed album "Winter, Fire, and Snow".
"What Child Is this?"
This hymn, with its familiar tune of "Greensleeves" is pretty, although the style and arrangement strikes me as something Moya Brennan would do.
This traditional hymn starts off acapella with fairly large pauses between stanzas (which becomes annoying and does not have a smooth feeling to it), and then it works into the rest of the band. I am not familiar with these verses, as this version has ones not normally sung. Compared to Enya and Hayley Westenra, this song is nothing memorable.
"Away in a Manger"
Orla sung this on Celtic Woman's Christmas album, and this version sounds almost identical, like what she would have sung with them. I would have preferred a different arrangement.
"God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen"
Orla picks up the pace on this song, but I do not get the feeling of "comfort and joy" in the way she sings it. The piece then transforms into an instrumental version of "We Three Kings" (though I honestly had difficulty telling the two songs apart).
This song has been covered in Gaelic so many times it has grown old on me. It sounds almost identical the one Meav sang with Celtic Woman.
Orla's harp has returned after spending time in the background on "Distant Shore". It is a pretty song, and the tune is familiar to me, having heard Maggie Sansone perform it. However, I do not know why this song was put on a Christmas/winter album.
"Bells of Christmas"
This song, most likely written by Orla, is pretty and sounds like Moya Brennan mixed with a bit of Loreena McKennit. To me, it is the only Christmas-y song on the album without coming across as sentimental. One of the few highlights of the entire album.
"In the Bleak Midwinter"
There is nothing particularly memorable about this song for me, despite being a pretty arrangement.
No, this is not the same one that Meav performs on her album "Celtic Journey"; rather, this is Anuna's version. Unless the song refers to Christ, once again I don't know why it ended up on this CD.
I have heard a couple of versions performed by Aine Minogue and the Chieftains, but the latter is still my absolute favorite. Orla sounds more like Aine here, and I'm still a bit puzzled over why a non-winter/Christmas tune is on here.
"Winter, Fire, and Snow"
This song is a poem converted to song form thanks to Brendan Graham (author of "My Land", "The Voice", and "You Raise Me up") and made popular by Orla's former collaborator Anuna. Even though it a haunting piece, Anuna's still holds my heart.
This carol sounds, again, identical to Meav/ Celtic Woman's.
I was hoping that this album would be an improvement over Orla's "Distant Shore" (which I thought was too pop-sounding for her style), but I found "Winter, Fire, and Snow" to be sadly worse.
First off is the style. Orla has departed from the pop, but she is now swinging more towards sounding like Moya Brennan. Maybe it is just because she is discovering her unique style, but Orla here sounds like a wannabe doing what other artists have already done and not standing up to them. She should find her own sound and stay there.
Second is the song choice. Besides a few Christmas/winter tunes, the album itself does not have the feel of something to listen to on a winter's day. Songs like "Carolan's Welcome" and "Captain O'Cain" sound more like filler and do not fit into the general scheme of things. And not only that, but the song arrangements are lacking and unimaginative. They sound more like Celtic Woman and less like Orla as a solo artist; and those not inspired by CW sound like Moya Brennan or come across as being passionless and flat, with nothing truly memorable about them.
Third off is Orla's voice itself. I read somewhere that the album was done in a short period of time, and it sounds exactly like that. Even though I have no critical fondness for "Distant Shore", I could still see Orla smiling and putting her heart into what she was singing. Here, I do not get that impression. Everything sounds rushed, as if there was no time to put a little heart and soul into what was performed.
I know Orla can do much, much better than this. She has no lack of talent or personality in singing and playing the harp, but sadly she fell flat on this CD. I was very disappointed to hear this album, and I can only hope that this is not a sign of things to come.
I give this album one and a half out of five stars.
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