Nonie Crete,
Moonlight Dreams
(self-produced, 1999)

I foolishly sent this one off for someone else to review. Through a chain of circumstances it returned to me and, rather than delay further by assigning it to someone else on the Rambles staff, I decided to handle it myself. Good fortune indeed!

Ontario-based singer-songwriter Nonie Crete has constructed a masterpiece with Moonlight Dreams, a folky album flavored with a heavy dose of Celtic inspiration. There's a ton of variety to be found in the songs, all of which were written by Crete or Irish songwriter Eugene O'Neill.

Crete tends more towards upbeat fun with her songs. "The Yonge Street Bum" is a whimsical, rose-colored glance at a delusional beggar. "Twiddlin' Her Fingers and Twiddlin' Her Thumbs" is a hopping work song. Crete's third song, "Johnny Kept Me Dancing," is a surprisingly joyous number about an unexpected baby and a father who's fled the country.

O'Neill, meanwhile, leans to a more serious side. Dealing with death and struggle, songs like "Moonlight Dreams," "Give Us Peace" and "Rebel Mother" grab the listener with themes couched in strong melodies and evocative lyrics. "Ghost Train" has a swinging beat despite its somber theme. "The Simple Things" is a simple song of friends and partings, while "Everywhere I Go" is a plaintive ballad of lost love. "Leaving Old Ireland" is perhaps the saddest, most touching song on the album, relating the heartbreak at home when an Irish native seeks opportunities abroad. The album ends with "Coal Yard," a crying lament about a boy who died in a conflict he had no part in starting.

The division between Crete's songs and O'Neill's is a sharp one, and it's perhaps odd to combine them on one CD. Still, Crete's voice is strong and sure throughout, injecting just the right amounts of glee or sorrow in each song.

[ by Tom Knapp ]
Rambles: 26 January 2002