IN AMERICA - CATHRYN CRAIG AND BRIAN WILLOUGHBY
LCM ALBUM OF THE MONTH - APRIL 2016
Release Date: January, 2016
Genre: Folk, Celticana
Location: London, England/Nashville, Tennessee
Record Label: Carbitunes
Tracks: 16 (including 4 bonus tracks)
'In America' is the stunning new album from one of Nashville's finest voices and premier songwriters Cathryn Craig and one of the UK's greatest acoustic guitar players Brian Willoughby. Quite simply, it's the best album so far from this world class duo. The album was recorded in Nashville last year by Thomas Jutz (engineer/producer/guitarist/bass and mandola player) at TJ Tunes, together with a dream-team of fantastic musicians including Jeff Taylor (Vince Gill/Time Jumpers), Fran Breen (Waterboys, Saw Doctors), Dennis Bryon (Amen Corner/Bee Gees), Pat McInerney (Nanci Griffith, Doc Watson), Brent Moyer (Lynn Anderson), Andy Reiss (Reba McEntire/Time Jumpers), Ron de la Vega (Nanci Griffith), and Richard Bailey (Steeldrivers). It's a beautifully crafted little gem of an album. A sublime fusion of Americana and Folk with Celtic influences. It was written by Cathryn and Brian except for two covers in the bonus tracks. There are also four co-writes and a cover song written by Val and Jimmy of North Easten duo jiva. We love the excellent arrangements, Cathryn's emotive vocal, Brian's excellent guitar playing, the interplay between the instruments on the album and the flavour and rhythm of Native American music on some of tracks. It is a very worthy addition to your music collection and a huge treat for your ears!
Cathryn Craig is from Richmond, Virginia and has built a strong reputation as both singer and songwriter. She is no stranger to Tennessee's Nashville recording studios, working with Chet Atkins, The Righteous Brothers, Shel Silverstein and Jorma Kaukonen. Brian Willoughby is best known for his virtuoso performances on electric and acoustic guitar. As well as playing with the Strawbs in the 80s and 90s, Brian has been a session player/sideman in much demand, playing with the likes of Mary Hopkin, Roger Whittaker, Monty Python, Joe Brown, Jim Diamond and Nanci Griffith.
The album begins with the very upbeat 'Curragh'. A curragh is a small Irish sail-boat and this one is talking us to the mythical land of Tir Na Nog "the land of young'. There is some beautiful whistle and a great guitar hook on this track. It really paints a picture of a busy port and a boat embacking for the sea.
The title track the powerful 'In America' tackles the subject of the hopes and dreams of Irish immigrants who come to America after the potato famine in Ireland. "We have suffered long, no one to help us. If we can just stay strong, soon it will be behind us. Leaving here's the only way. To the place of free and brave....in America."
'A Soft Place To Fall' is a song written for Cathryn's niece Maria, who was fresh out of university and embarking on her new adventures. It is full of very sage advice and experiance. "Life is short even on the longest days and time will never wait. Life's a chance, a back and forth dance with fate. Cast your dreams and sail away......and when you lose your way, a safe place to fall"
A very worthy addition to the album is one of my favourite songs from Cathryn and Brian 'Malahide Moon'. Brian's father was from Malahide (County Dublin) and they shared a love of classic British motorcycles. This song celebrates one of their motorcycle trips. I love its great guitar hook, whistle and accordian accompaniment and Cathryn's soaring vocals.
The very tender love ballad 'Eyes Open Wide' was co-written with celebrated songwriter Peter McCann, it features Thomas Jutz, Andy Reiss and Brian on guitars, backing Cathryn exquisite vocals. The playing here is super tight and an absolute pleasure to listen to "After all this time, finally I jave found you. Guided by your starry light through my darkest night. I was like a child. Lost and tired of hiding. Something in your shing smile, helped me it make it home."
Almost Spanish/Mexican sounding 'We're Walking Each Other Home' was a collaboration with Brent Mayer, who hails from Wyoming and is know as the 'Global Cowboy'. Another stunningly beautiful interplay of guitars and vocals.
'The Fire' was the first co-written song by Cathryn and Brian, it was orginally written for Brian's solo album 'Black & White'. "You lost your way you live in pain, dying of thirst drowning in the rain. You can't hold on, you can't let it go, a broken man lonely and cold,"
Another of our favourites 'These Old Stone Walls' came from Brian's trip around Ireland with his 86 year old Uncle Tommy. Driving through Donegal, Tommy said "If only these old stone walls could speak, what a tale they would tell!"
The Country infused 'Bullet' with its slide guitar and banjo is a co-write with Bill Mead, singer-songwriter with UK R'n'B band 'The Sharpees'.
The marvelous Celtic flavoured 'Whatever Is For You' is a song of encouragement to trust in fate. A lovely fusion of guitars, accordian, whistle, mandola, bass, drums and vocals. It really reminds me of some of the early albums of The Corrs.
The very happy-go-lucky and upbeat 'The Middle', is a song about Cathryn's and Brian's life and experiance in music. About being happy with what you have and not going to extremes. "But the truth is I don't want more than I can use, All the people on TV insist I should be getting more. But somewhere in the middle, millions of happy people know...They've got enough, they don't need more stuff......I get to follow my star with this old guitar and my love right by my side"
The last song on the main part of the album 'One More Song' wriiten by Val and Jimmy of 'jiva'. A fitting tribute to Jimmy who sadly passed away last year.
This is a great album even its bonus tracks are top quality and something very special. The first two songs are very apt as they showcase and explore some of music and musicians that Cathryn and Brian have worked with over the years. Cathryn sang harmonies vocals for Bill Medley of The Righteous Brothers, so first up is a stripped cover of the classic 'You've Lost That Lovin' Feelin'. Delicate guitar picking, slide guitar, bass and light drums with the very emotive Cathryn singing her heart out. Simply stuning.
The second song is the Mary Hopkin classic hit 'Those Were The Days'. Brian toured with Mary in her band.
One of the highlights of the album is the very touching and beautifully written 'Alice's Song', about a little girl with autism. The song is dedicated to all children with special needs.
The final bonus track is the country-sounding 'I Will', a song about determination. A simple song that is sublimly played and perfectly executed. We love the interplay between the banjo and twin acoustic guitars.
- In America
- A Soft Place to Fall
- Malahide Moon
- Eyes Open Wide
- We're Walking Each Other Home
- The Fire
- These Old Stone Walls
- Whatever Is For You
- The Middle
- One More Song
- (Bonus tracks) You've Lost That Loving Feelin'
- (Bonus tracks) Those Were The Days
- (Bonus tracks) Alice's Song
- (Bonus tracks) I Will