The Browne Sisters
& George Cavanaugh,
Ready for the Storm
(independent, 2004)

If you are a fan of Celtic music and you haven't heard of the Browne Sisters & George Cavanaugh, then you have some catching up to do. The Browne Sisters include Diane (vocals), Pamela (vocals, shaker) and Laura (vocals, bodhran). George (vocals, acoustic guitar) is their cousin. Their first recording (that I know about), Silver Darlings, dates back to 1989. In 2004, they released Ready for the Storm.

Like prior CDs, Ready for the Storm includes traditional songs as well as covers of more recent works. The title track is the first of 13 on the CD and a good introduction to the band if you are unfamiliar with them. The harmonizing of the sisters is almost magical. The sisters have beautiful solo voices, but added together, the sum is greater than the individual parts. The guitar solo in the middle of this track complements what is already an awesome performance.

My favorite traditional selection is "Bonny Portmore." Many have heard this song that references the destruction of an old forest for military purposes. While this rendition is not quite as good as Loreena McKennitt's, it is a far cry better than any other I have heard. For those unfamiliar with this song, I can only guess you don't listen to very much Celtic music. This is a very melancholy tune that can actually make you feel guilty for terrible things humans to do nature.

The cover song that caught me offguard was the group's performance of "You'll Never Leave Harlan Alive." This song is about coal-mining in Harlan, Kentucky. If you are wondering why this song is on the CD, the liner notes mention that "the concerns and challenges of working Americans, many of them descended from Scottish and Irish immigrants, seem to be handed down generation to generation." By the end of the track, the Browne Sisters will have you convinced that Kentucky is a district in Ireland.

According to the band's website (see link below), John Allan (uilleann pipes, acoustic guitar, electric guitar, whistle and vocals) has joined the band on a permanent basis. Several other musicians leant their talents on Ready for the Storm: David Chamberlin (electric, acoustic and slide guitars, mandolin, drum programming, bass, organ, percussion and accordion), Gene Black (electric and acoustic guitars, mandolin and bass) and Nick Milo (piano).

The Browne Sisters & George Cavanaugh may be from California, but their music is decidedly from across the eastern pond. It doesn't matter if they are performing a traditional tune or doing their rendition of a more recent cover, Celtic influence is all over the piece. Ready for the Storm blends traditional and Celtic rock seamlessly. If you are ready for some good music and even better harmonizing, this storm is for you.

by Wil Owen
22 October 2005

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