CRAICMORE – “From Hill & Hoolie” CD ’09 (Kilts On, US) – Been a long time since I got a really good Celtic folk CD. Been a long time since I did the stroll through a Celtic festival, though, so I guess it’s good that California’s CRAICMORE sent me this, their 3rd CD. In all honesty, it doesn’t surprise me that this band has delivered a sterling piece of work. Their last disc, “Too Bad For Heaven, Too Good For Hell…” sparked a good review on these pages a few years ago. Still, I think “From Hill…” is even better. Bolstered by a shimmering-yet-crystal-clear production courtesy of Grammy-nominated engineer Scott Fraser, the band’s eclectic blend of ideas comes through with a powerful punch. All you have to do is listen to the opening pair of “Rocky Road To Dublin / Butterfly / Foxhunter’s” and “Star Of Munster / Gravel Walk.” In the former, Nancy Johnston’s rich & full voice takes command right away as the multi-instruments of John MacAdams (guitar, Didjeridoo, banjo, etc.), Dave Champagne (flute, pennywhistle, great highland bagpipes, etc.) and Sean Faye-Cullen (bass & vox) lay down a simmering accompaniment. With the latter, Champagne gives a veritable clinic with whistle as he then does with the Highland pipes on “Dark Isle / Glasgow City Police.” Elsewhere, the band’s willingness to stretch out into other ethnic reaches is never as apparent as on the traditional Chinese folk song, “Crescent Moon.” There’s no question that CRAICMORE have announced with “From Hill & Hoolie” that Celtic-inspired folk music is a very live and vital animal. Recommended. 8.0
Ray Dorsey of Rays Realm - raysrealm.blogspot
With this third album, from hill & hoolie, Craicmore continues a journey that started over a decade ago in the pubs and clubs of Los Angeles, California, and has in recent years taken them across the United States, and as far away as Alaska and China.
Arrangements and ideas are drawn, as always, from far and wide. Even the jigs and reels that comprise any standard Celtic repertoire are put through the cultural blender with such elements as singer Nancy Johnston's rhythmic hardshoe dancing, and guitarist John MacAdams' didjeridoo and exotic percussion. The eccentric song and tune set mixes that have become a Craicmore trademark have never been better, most obvious on the album opener "Rocky Road To Dublin," colored with haunting backing vocals and counter-rhythms, culminating in a glorious pair of slip jigs.
Johnston sings beautifully on songs in three languages, including Irish on a bouncy version of the traditional "Cunla," and Mandarin on a delicate Chinese folk song, "Crescent Moon." Her big voice is at times vulnerable as on "Star of the County Down," at others powerful and driving, and yet she is able to hit a deeply reflective mood in "Streets of Sorrow."
New bassist Sean Faye-Cullen forms a solid rhythm section with MacAdams. His inventive and complimentary bass lines bring a sonic depth and contemporary life to the music.
The instrumentals are in the capable hands of Dave Champagne, melodic and powerful on a variety of pipes, flutes and whistles, the latter particularly on a show-stopping highland bagpipe tune, "Dark Isle/Glasgow City Police."
The album's production values are heightened through collaborations with the talents of Grammy nominated mix engineer Scott Fraser, the fiddle of Chicago's Kathleen Keene, and guest appearances from former members Bryan Ogihara and Dave Soyars on bouzouki and bass respectively.
Producer and musical director MacAdams says of from hill & hoolie "I feel so fortunate to have been working with extraordinarily talented musicians, a Grammy nominated mix and mastering engineer and musical arrangements that have been honed to a silky sheen through years of performance. This is certainly our most sophisticated and adventuresome outing to date."
On stage or in the studio, the members of Craicmore always endeavor to bring a sense of adventure to the music of the Celtic lands, combining the artistry of tradition with the excitement of the modern day. from hill & hoolie continues the movement forward while looking to the past for continued inspiration.