JOY SHANNON AND THE BEAUTY MARKS
Returning for their sixth studio album, 'Mo Anam Cara', are Joy Shannon and The Beauty Marks, a self-professed Celtic pagan folk band. Although forget preconceptions of a generic folk aesthetic, for Joy and her assemblage of talented musicians have created their own aurally unique space within which they exercise a more innovative, neo-folk vibe. The band's titular lady is, herself, the predominant creative force behind this act, having composed all music and lyrics, and assuming lead vocal duties, as well as performing Celtic harp and cello. And it's her voice, harp and cello which feature at the core of each song, which are flavoured with a little guitar, stand-up bass and backing vocals. A conceptual work too, the album's "based entirely on the ancient Celtic calendar with a song for every holiday from Samhain to Mabon".
For music that is primarily down-tempo and ostensibly minimalist, there's a surprising profundity of emotion and heartfelt immediacy that's conveyed through each of the songs. This derives, prominently, from Joy's wonderfully expressive voice. Her angelically sublime and melancholically ethereal delivery, sporadically giving way to more fervently sung passages, is truly captivating. And married with the melodically beautiful splendour of her harp and cello that are central to the instrumentations, 'Mo Anam Cara' is an emotionally potent force. Largely original through its affectively moving heart (and this is music with a lot of heart), it's also, at times, reminiscent of the carefully crafted sublimity found in music from the long defunct Italian duo, Gothica (anyone remember them?)
One of the standout tracks is undoubtedly 'Midsummer Witch Hunt'. Through sonically melancholic provocation, latent aggression and lyrical astuteness, it's an intelligent and cogently posited critique of the schismatic hypocrisy inherent in the persecution of so-called witches throughout Western history, during centuries of yore that were characterised by a more ecclesiastical and politically fucked-up climate (and one could argue that, analogously, witch-hunts have forever continued in the modern world through perpetuated irrational prejudice and mindless adherence). The song takes a dark turn two-thirds through, delivering a lyrically stark and tenacious offensive on the persecutor's conscience. It's stirring stuff, both through words and music, with the contraposition of Joy's angelic and then more scathing vocals, a jarringly affective one. Art such as this is, for me, sheer bliss; epitomising a perfect balance between the somatically emotive and cognitively reflective. And the same can be said for the album as a whole. A genuinely great record on so many different levels, music doesn't get much more emotionally sincere than this.
Tripple Goddess Records
MO ANAM CARA
Review by Mark Holmes
20th March 2015
1) The Winds of Hel
3) Midwinter Ghost
4) Imbolec Invocation to Brighid
5) Ostara Blodeuwedd
6) The Fires of Beltaine
7) Midsummer Witch Hunt
8) Lughnasadh Maeve (The One Who Intoxicates)
10) Mabon Airmid (Bring Back the Dead)
COUNTRY OF ORIGIN:
"For music that is primarily down-tempo and ostensibly minimalist, there's a surprising profundity of emotion and heartfelt immediacy that's conveyed through each of the songs."