Thursday, November 17, 2011

CD Review: "Anamceol" by Deirdre Shannon

In the spring of this year, former Celtic Woman member Deirdre Shannon released her second solo CD titled "Anamceol." She celebrated this release by offering a special deal of an autographed copy of the CD. I ordered the CD but unfortunately, for whatever reason, mine was not autographed. Nonetheless, the CD was worth it on its own.

"Follow the Heron"

This stunning song is about the coming of spring and the departure of winter. The lyrics are rich in their description, and Deirdre's voice soars as she sings them. This song is an excellent start to the album and one of my personal favorites.

"John O'Dreams"

This song is about John O'Dreams, a mythological Irish figure who has some connection to death (the insert in the CD explains it better). The dark lyrics are offset in a somewhat odd way by the more up-beat tune. Nonetheless, it is a pretty and catchy song.

"Maid of Culmore"

After the previous two pieces being more powerful, Deirdre becomes more subdued here, though she loses none of her emotion. This song is about a beautiful girl from Culmore who captures the heart of a man but leaves him heart-broken when she sails to America, causing him to go after her.

"Bonny Blue-Eyed Nancy"

This romantic song is about a young man who loves the beautiful Nancy, who is considered too low for him, but he remains loyal to her. Deirdre sings this beautiful song with tenderness and passion.

"Gartan Mother's Lullaby"

This Irish lullaby, which Orla Fallon fans will recognize from her debut album, is beautifully sung by Deirdre. The song is subdued and lovely, one of the highlights of the album. The background noise of water helps to give the song a very soothing atmosphere.

"Silent O Moyle"

Fans of Meav will recognize this song from her "Silver Sea" album. Deirdre sings this lament, accompanied by the piano, and she puts great emotion into it. No offense to Meav or to Anuna, but this version is my favorite.

"Siobhan Ni Dhuibhir"

I have only heard Clannad cover this song on their debut 1973 album. Deirdre sings this in Gaelic, accompanied by a strumming guitar and background strings. It does have an odd feel to it, a Gaelic song being accompanied by a small orchestra. It isn't a bad song, but it is not one of my personal favorites.

"Down by the Sally Gardens"

This song has been covered by so many Irish artists that after a while most versions tend to sound alike. This is not the case with Deirdre's cover. Much like Orla Fallon's version, Deirdre sings this with the piano and background orchestra, but she makes the song sound very atmospheric and beautiful without sounding busy or overdone.

"Lass of Glenshee"

The only version of this song I am familiar with is the one that Anuna did with former Celtic Woman Meav. Deirdre sings this romantic song, accompanied by a guitar. I prefer this version more than Anuna's because Deirdre actually sings loud enough to be heard.

"Crucan Na Bpaiste"

I have never heard this song before, but it is based off of a poem that Brendan Graham (writer of "You Raise Me Up" and "The Voice", both made popular by CW) wrote. The Gaelic song is a mother's lament for her dead child. Deirdre sings this with such tender emotion that is heart-wrenching when you hear her. This one of my favorite songs from the album.

"Song for Ireland"

Deirdre ends the album with a tender reflection on her home country of Ireland. It is pretty though not one of my favorites.

Compared to Deirdre's first album, I like this one much better. Firstly, because Deirdre stays much closer to her Irish- Celtic roots. Every single song on this album is Irish or Scottish, and I enjoyed how she picked more remote songs, not sticking to the popular ones that people associate with Irish music. Secondly, Deirdre's first album came across to me as being more pop. This album feels more like a contemporary take on Celtic music; even though some aspects remind one of pop, everything still feels distinctly Irish. If I have a complaint about the album, it's that some of the songs sound alike after a while. On her debut album, Deirdre had the upbeat "I Know My Love" and "Gathering Mushrooms," but this album only has "John O'Dreams." I would have liked more upbeat songs to offset the more subdued, quiet pieces.

Otherwise, "Anamceol" is a beautiful album. Instead of going on a pop route to entice American fans, Deirdre remains true to her Irish roots. Out of all of Celtic Woman's members over the past several years, her voice has not changed or gone sour, and she has continued singing truly Irish music. If you are looking for a beautiful Celtic album with emotion and power without it sounding sappy or overdone, this is the album for you.

I give it four out of five stars.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Movie Review: The King's Speech

Given my fondness for movies about British royalty, I recently watched "The King's Speech" with Colin Firth and Geoffrey Rush.


"The King's Speech" is set in the 1930's England and tells the story of George the Sixth, also known as "Bertie." Bertie is the son of King George the Fifth and brother of the future King Edward, and he has speech problems, which lead to teasing within his own family. Bertie gives up hope of ever being able to talk normally, but his devoted wife Elizabeth seeks the help of Lionel Logue, an unorthodox Australian therapist, to work with her husband. As time goes on, Bertie develops a friendship with Logue, but he becomes terrified at the prospect of him becoming king with his father's death and his brother's abdication.

The story itself flows smoothly and, from what I have read, looks pretty historically accurate. The plot is interesting and keeps you engaged as it moves from different events throughout the 1930's, from a failed speech to Edward and Wallis Simpson's affair to Bertie's first big speech. The plot itself sounds like a typical inspirational story that is more fluff than anything else. What truly sets this apart is the witty dialogue and the characters.

The characters were well-written, and the actors did an excellent job portraying them. Colin Firth played Bertie, and he truly showed off Bertie's quick temper, his devotion to his family and his country, and his own fears regarding the possibility of him ruling; he also does a convincing job as a stammerer. Helena Bonham Carter, unlike her usual eccentric movie roles, plays Bertie's wife Elizabeth and pulls off the elegant, polite character well. Geoffrey Rush plays the witty Lionel Logue and does this very well; his character is quite memorable and likable. There are various other characters throughout the movie, but they all add to the story.

The costumes and sets looked realistic, and the movie itself felt like it was indeed set in the 1930's of England.

The movie is rated R, but it only has that rating because during a therapy session, Bertie starts yelling profanities, as he discovers he never stammers when he swears. This scene is not very long and is largely played for humor, but the great amounts of language in the short scene give it its R-rating.

I truly enjoyed watching "The King's Speech." It truly was an enjoyable and interesting movie.

I give it 4 and 1/2 stars out of five.