I don’t know how many Irish ballads I’ve heard with the title John Riley since I began covering world music, but a few. And since each ballad has its own distinct signature, I visualize Irish phonebooks containing pages of John Riley. The version that appears on Boston-based Celtic quintet Annalivia’s Barrier Falls, delights my ears. Lead vocalist/guitarist Liz Simmons possesses one of those voices, clear, immaculate, and chockfull of delicate emotions that does the Irish tradition proud.
Annalivia with its Celtic chamber sound comprised of banjo, dual fiddles, acoustic guitar, double-bass and vocal harmonies, hits the spot on this rainy Sunday afternoon. The band performs both melancholic love ballads and heartwarming jigs and reels, hailing from Cape Breton, the British Isles, and the US. The musicians polish each track, adding a few twists and 3-part vocal harmonies in the opening and closing tracks. I envision this band playing a double bill with The Wailin’ Jennys.
Overall, I find the album full of timeless and uplifting music. Traveling Case with Flynn Cohen on lead vocals, and The Times is Up with its gorgeous melody and warm guitar, stand out as my favorites thus far. The musicians grab their inspiration from Irish, Scottish, and American bluegrass and remind me of the Finnish-Norwegian band Frigg at times. When I listen to Barrier Falls, I hear a Celtic classic in the making.
http://www.annaliviamusic.com/ and http://www.5-string.com/