The Once,
The Once
(Borealis, 2010)

The Once captured my attention at the Festival Club one night during the Celtic Colours International Festival in Cape Breton, NS. I hadn't caught their show earlier in the evening, but I was fortunate enough to hear a brief spotlight performance in the after-hours club in St. Ann's.

Intrigued by the sound of this Newfoundland trio with its mix of traditional and contemporary songs, I trudged back to the Green Room to see if they had any CDs on offer. Geraldine Hollett, the lead singer for the band, gladly handed me two.

The Once, the band's self-titled debut, was first into my car stereo. Immediately, I was hooked.

Besides a great reading of traditional numbers such as "Maid on the Shore," "Willie Taylor" and "The Deserter," the album includes an artful selection of covers. Dave Cousins' "Sail Away to the Sea" and Leonard Cohen's "Anthem," which bookend the album, are particular favorites. Hollett shows an especially emotive voice on the a cappella song "Marguerite," a Scott Richardson tale of a Newfoundland woman's personal tragedy. I'm also rather fond of "What Will You Be Building," a song by Amelia Curran, as well as the band's interpretations of "Maid on the Shore" and "Willie Taylor."

Instrumentally strong, the band yet owes much of its appeal to Hollett's amazing vocals. Powerful and sweet, she carries the album along with the backing voices of bandmates Phil Churchill and Andrew Dale (both of whom also contribute an impressive collection of instruments to the overall sound).

Watch this space for a review of the band's second album, which I can already tell you is even better than this one. I just might have a new favorite band from Newfoundland -- and considering the last band to hold that title, that's saying something.

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music review by
Tom Knapp

27 October 2012

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