Aoife (“Eee-fa”) Clancy is the daughter of Bobby of the Clancy Brothers, and has been lead vocalist with Cherish The Ladies. Silvery Moon is her third solo album and is an amalgam of Celtic and American folk. If her name were not so Irish and were it not for the reputation of Cherish the Ladies, it would be easier to present this as a folk album with a few Celtic tracks, instead of a Celtic album with leanings toward American folk. But trust my words, Silvery Moon is a folk album.
Clancy has a lovely and versatile alto voice. On the traditional Celtic tracks, for instance “Are You Sleeping Maggie,” it can have the power of Celtic rock artist Heather Alexander; on the contemporary tracks, her voice moves in subtle shades. Every so often you might hear a ghost of Karen Carpenter in the latter, but what the heck. Clancy is backed by acoustic musicians Liam Bradley on drums, James Blennerhassett on bass, Lissa Schneckenburger on fiddle, and Larry Nugent on flute. The contemporary arrangements are flawless, but also a bit too correct and often inobtrusive and even unmemorable. Bradley has played with Van Morrison, and Blennerhassett is from Mary Black’s band.
For the traditionalist like me, the highlights are “Are You Sleeping Maggie,” “The Banks Of Sweet Primroses,” and “The Earl Of March’s Daughter”; the last of these has a sort of light contemporary country interpretation including dobro. “The Banks Of Sweet Primroses” is probably most interesting, with its perky arrangement including insistent cello by Rushad Eggleston and percussion by Myron Bretholz. An a capella version of the Appalachian song “Across the Blue Mountains,” done partially in chorus, stands right up to versions by Sally Rogers and by Robin and Linda Williams.
Other tracks seem like they could be more effective than they are. Ron Kavana’s “Reconciliation” is done with passion, but lacks the local color of Kavana’s version. Australian Henry Lawson’s poem “The Sliprails and the Spur” is dulled and fogged by an easy listening tune and arrangement. ” Other tracks suffer from both unobtrusive lyrics and arrangements. “Kisses Sweeter Than Wine,” sung as a duet with Clancy’s father, provides a nice closing touch.
Here is the clue to whether you’ll like this album. If you like Mary Black, yes. If you’re looking for Shane MacGowan, Silvery Moon is not for you. If you’re in the middle ground; if you’re a traditional music enthusiast, well … you may only sometimes want to throttle the piano player for her milquetoast style.