Haunted By Waters,
Like the Dust
(XDot25 Productions, 1995)

I thought Haunted By Waters was a Celtic fusion band when I picked up a copy of its 1995 release, Like the Dust. I was wrong, but pleasantly surprised all the same.

There are certainly Celtic influences on the album, from the Gaelic lyrics to "The Coming of Lugh" to the haunting tin whistle solo in "Shasta the Wanderer." But there are African and Middle Eastern influences, too, plus a smattering of sensual gypsy spirit as well.

It's definitely a multicultural experience. Consider: "The Coming of Lugh" is based on the tale of the Irish hero who delivered his people from the Fomorians. "Jalne Jalne" was drawn from the Macedonian folk song "Se Vradse Vradse Jalno Sonce." And "Pray" was inspired by Nelson Mandela.

Cait McWhir's strong, lush vocals are strongly reminiscent of Dead Can Dance's Lisa Gerrard. In fact, I'd be surprised if several members of Haunted By Waters didn't learn a few things at the Dead Can Dance altar. That's not to suggest this is a copycat band; the Haunted By Waters sound is entirely its own.

The band certainly tapped a deep well when gathering the talented group of musicians. McWhir, besides vocals, plays tin whistle, bodhran, djembe, fish'head and finger cymbals. David Hannibal provides electric and classical guitars, didgeridu and keyboards. Gerry Bassermann adds more keyboards, background vocals, six- and twelve-string acoustic guitars, alto sax, vir'cello, drums and conch shell to the mix. Tina Blaine also sings and plays drums, djembe, congas, dumbec and udu drums.

Round out the band with Greg Stone on bass, Stephen Schultz on baroque flute, Rhan Wilson on drums, tabla and bongos, and Cat Taylor on electric violin. All in all, it's a very full sound.

There are a lot of percussionists in the list above, and they don't spare the beat on this album. The relentless rhythms keep things moving throughout, evoking many a memory of bonfire drum circles and making it hard to keep feet still.

I'm not sure if it's the relentless rhythms or MacWhir's strong vocals which keep pulling me back. Doubtless it's both, brought together in a haunting blend.

"Haunting" is a good word to describe the overall flavor of Like the Dust. I can only say the band has chosen its name well.

[ by Tom Knapp ]

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