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The Sounding Board by R J Lannan
RJ Lannan is the reviewer for The Sounding Board.
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Heartwood
By Sora
Label: Self Released
Released 5/2/2009
Heartwood tracks
1. Heartwood  
2. Drift  
3. Eurydice  
4. Winter  
5. Hurricane  
6. Light  
7. Twilight  
8. Children of Lir  
9. The Juniper  
10. The Birch's Lament  
11. Madron Well  
There’s a New Kid in Town
There is a new voice to be heard, a new level of composition to be examined and an exciting stage of passion to be explored inside the music of Canadian artist Sora. This is a rare album where all the elements come together to form a beguiling recording of (North American) Celtic music. Think of the offerings of Kate Price, Bill Leslie and Loreena McKennitt with their unique styles of almost, but not quite contemporary Celtic. Sora's new album Heartwood embodies all of their methods, but with a singular strength that is literally, heretofore unheard of in the New World. Sora's sweet voice, potency of lyric and attention to musical detail captivated me. It made me want to hear more after the very first song. I was never disappointed.

Appearing on Heartwood are a number of talented musicians including Fergus March on bass, Ray Dillard on various noise makers, Hugh Marsh on violin, Douglas Romanow on keyboards, and a wonderful string quartet made up of Lenny Solomon, Ronald Bal,
, Wendy Solomon and Claudio Vena. There seems to be a lot of familiar names on the list.

As carpenter, I know that the strongest wood of the tree is the heartwood, strong, dense and mature. As a writer, I know that the heartwood contains the life and history of the tree. The seasons, the weather and the stories of the earth are all contained deep in the wooden core. Sora's first cut, Heartwood is the story. Sora says it best with the words…

"I’ve heard the song of the seasons
Each note the lifetime of light
And I live within each gossamer moment
Where silences hum with life."

Sora takes a page from ancient Greek history to tell the tragic tale of Eurydice, the love of Orpheus. Musician to the gods, Orpheus is grief stricken when his beloved dies and is taken to the Underworld. His playing of the lyre so impresses Hades that he returns his wife with the provision that Orpheus not look upon her countenance until they are back on the surface world. Unfortunately, Orpheus cannot help himself and once again, loses the love of his life. This is sad tune, but it immediately became my favorite on an album of favorites.

Winter has a very appealing melody with the plucking of violin strings to express delicate snowfall. When I first heard this tune I thought that Sora was about fifteen years old. The sweetness of the vocal is extraordinary as is the height to which the song climbs. Most people feel sadness in winter, but there is also much beauty and color in the season of earthly sleep. All is revealed in the song.

The Irish legend of the Children of Lir has been made famous by many artists including Patrick Cassidy, Loudest Whisper and of course, Sora. Four siblings turned into swans by a wicked stepmother and forever bound by chains of silver are forced to endure their fate for nine hundred years. The ending of the story.. well, you will have to listen to Sora's rendition to find that out.

If you believe in fairytales then The Birch's Lament is the story for you. The sweet ballad is the tale of the lighthearted Liselle and the Birch Prince. In the twilight they dance, but there is jealousy and treachery about. It is the story of unrequited love as the Birch Prince loses his love when she sacrifices herself for his safety. Sora’s story telling is enchanting as is her voice and the delightful accompaniment of the string quartet just adds more life to the tale.

Had I enough room I would have written about every tune. The music is absolutely resplendent and Sora's voice soars with crystalline purity. The melodies are complex and harmonious. The music is perfectly balanced with some use of the keyboards with tiny sounds in the background and the string quartet. For me it is the best Celtic offering of the year and the whole album is completely enjoyable. This is going on the 2009 Top Ten. As I said, Sora writes and performs with a singular strength that is Heartwood.
Rating: Excellent   Excellent
- reviewed by RJ Lannan on 11/28/2009
 
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