Saoirse's Heart - Celtic Cross
Somewhere between the time the beat dropped and the auto-tuned vocal histrionics kicked in, pop seemingly abandoned its greatest contribution to contemporary music; melody. Pop melodies are what made the songs popular in the first place; for their memorable lyrical hooks that compel us to sing along. Melodious pop still exists, but you might have to explore other corners of the music spectrum to find it. Celtic pop is a natural hybrid that pays forward the great Celtic tradition of the sing-along. Born out of romantic airs, sea shanties and pub anthems Celtic pop also offers contemporary context with touches of urban, dance, soul and pop/rock orientation. NYC septet, Celtic Cross prove particularly brilliant at forging this alloy of roots and pop on their 4th release, 'Saoirse's Heart' (pronounced 'Seer-sha', it's Irish Gaelic for 'Freedom'). The talented veterans exercise their freedom not with abandon, but with skillful song writing and thoughtful execution. As is commonplace in the Celtic music world, a family history of making music together is at the core of Celtic Cross and explains the close-knit synergy captured on the new disc. Kathleen Fee is a fine vocalist with pure tone, welcomely devoid of adornment or affectation. She's also a crafty songwriter and cofounder of Celtic Cross with brothers Kenny and John. Saoirse's Heart can be enjoyed simply as a collection of attractive songs, but if you prefer to delve into deeper themes you will be rewarded with a subtle chronology that takes the listener from the tribulations of young adulthood to finding redemption and peace in maturity in the second half of the disc's fourteen original compositions. Reinvention and experimentation are obviously motivating to the band, but they explore with reverence and respect for their roots. The title track adds a spoken word flow and guitar edge to the banjo groove for a refreshing, impactful opener to the set. Later in the disc the banjo returns for a funky instrumental breakdown called The D Train. Kathleen Fee shines on the brooding, dark and lovely Jameson Johnny and with blissed out glory on the ultimately hummable Whirl Spin Girl, a case study in the power of melody.