Thomas Loefke & Friends,
Norland Wind
(Celtic Heartbeat, 1994)

Fans of contemporary Clannad will enjoy the lush, modern sound of harper Thomas Loefke's Norland Wind CD. The German harper was first introduced to the Celtic harp when attending an early Clannad concert, and he credits it with changing his life. Planted with the seeds of the desire to play music rather than just listen, he learned the harp, and soon was winning awards for his strong and distinctive style. On this recording, he deftly matches his bold, contemporary harping with the skills of Clannad members Ciaran Brennan (keyboards) and Noel and Padriag Duggan (vocals, guitar). The result is a strong harp album with that distinctive Clannad sound.

Other supporting cast members include Scottish guitarist Ian Melrose, bassist Peter Jakk, Maire Breatnach on fiddle, and vocalists Cristian Crawley and Kerstin Blodig from the group Touchwood. This all-star cast creates a wide scope of moods on this somewhat dark and brooding recording. Loefke's seven original compositions are the stand-outs on the album, shining through with rhythmic intensity and passion. These include a shimmering and contemplative "Rime on the Moor," a foot-tapping, syncopated "Dance for the Hedgehog's Feet," and a wonderful little tune titled "The Tipsy Elk," which even includes the hiccups!

There are also some nice arrangements of traditional tunes, such as the Gaelic "Suibhan Ni Dhuibhir." Gaelic singers will be delighted to find the lyrics actually printed in the liner notes, a rare thing these days. Kerstin Blodig does justice to the melody, and the Duggans add stirring harmonies amidst the soaring harp accompaniment. Other arrangements include the familiar song "The Shamrock Soil No More," which is spiced up a bit with a slightly syncopated rhythm, giving it a bit more of a lilt than commonly heard. "The Promenade" includes two well-known slip jigs, "The Promenade" and "The Butterfly," beautifully displaying Ian Melrose's talents both as guitarist and arranger. The harp and guitar trade the melody back and forth beautifully, complimenting each other with rhythmic cadences underneath, and backed by a strong bass line.

Overall, this recording will have a little something to offer most Celtic music fans, mixing the modern with the traditional, and coming up with a Celtic cocktail. Loefke's German heritage comes through in the dark, somber tone, while the catchy rhythms and syncopations leave the feet tapping.

[ by Jo Morrison ]

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