Two Tall Women,
Out of the Woods
(Magic Puddle, 2002)

Two Tall Women's Out of the Woods is a haunting and lovely collection of acoustic, mostly Celtic music. As might be inferred by the name, Two Tall Women is a duo, and a mother-daughter duo at that. Pam Southwell provides vocals and plays guitar and low D whistle; she also wrote two of the songs and arranged all but one of the others. Daughter Beth Southwell sings and plays djembe, accordion, sax and pennywhistle.

Other musical contributors include Lou Keating (guitar), Nigel Tucker (pennywhistle, bodhran), Michael Sanyshyn (violin, mandolin), Andy Smyth (piano, synth), Rob Menzies (Scottish small pipes, bodhran, pennywhistle), Graham Lord (cello), Steve Gidora (bouzouki, mandolin) and Chris Meister (snare drum).

The songs allow the women to show off their close harmonies to their best advantage. The opening tracks set a melancholy tone with "Geordie," a traditional song about a doomed man and the true love who tries and fails to save him, and Richard Thompson's "Crazy Man Michael," where a raven's prophecy becomes hideously self-fulfilling. They lighten the mood with the a cappella "Sorrows Away" and their voices blend and diverge beautifully.

"The River Runs Wild" sounds familiar, and I was certain I'd heard it before, but it is one of Pam Southwell's original songs. It is truly memorable. Other songs include "Edmund of the Hill/The Singing Piper," "Un Canadien Errant" (sung in French) and "Blackwater Side." Almost all are sung in the same lilting harmonies, but just as one can't step in the same river twice, the songs hardly sound identical.

The music on Out of the Wood is soothing but not soporific, and Two Tall Women perform it with quiet introspective passion.

- Rambles
written by Donna Scanlon
published 26 April 2003

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