Julia Lane,
Song of the Sea
(Castlebay Music, 1998)

Julia Lane has found her niche with this recording of original music about life on the coast. This collection of water music shows Julia's excellent sense of environment, capturing the feel of coastal lands in the melody, accompaniment, and lyrics. Her songs are varied, displaying a wide range of influences and her ability to develop distinctive accompaniments to match the mood of the song.

Opening the recording is an ethereal "Song of the Sea," featuring Julia's liquid-silver voice soaring above the sound of seagulls, waves, and the wind echoing through the harp strings. The result is something much like Loreena McKennitt, sensual, haunting, and memorable. This is followed by "Winds of Change," a harp solo which demonstrates the unpredictability of the wind by the changing tempo and feel of the music.

Among my favorites are "The House on the Hill," which tells of an abandoned house that touches the singer's heart, and "Winds of Autumn," a woman's call for the winds to bring her sailor home. This one uses only the sounds of the ocean as accompaniment for Julia's lilting voice, and displays her understanding of singing in the Irish sean nos style.

Although the music mainly features Julia's talents on harp and vocals, there is a generous interspersing of guest musicians: Fred Gosbee (viola, 12-string guitar, woodwinds, bass, and vocals), Gary Clancy (guitar and percussion), and Doreen Conboy (cello.) These additional instruments add texture and depth to the music that could not have been accomplished by harp and voice alone, keeping the music fresh and interesting. Julia's regular performing partner, Fred Gosbee, adds particular depth with his viola lines and vocals. It would have been nice to hear more of his vocals, especially on "Run Before the Wind."

Overall, this is an outstanding collection of songs by a singer/songwriter with a harp. I look forward to hearing her next project.

[ by Jo Morrison ]