Wild Flowers,
Total Vocal
(Magnetic, 1994)

My first impression was of a '40s-era USO band entertaining the troops with their good looks and soulful harmonious singing ... perhaps a new incarnation of the Andrews Sisters or the Lennon Sisters. But Wild Flowers is an Irish band, and their ear-pleasing blend of swing, blues and Irish folk music is full of surprises.

The biggest surprise is that there doesn't seem to be a follow-up to Total Vocal, the band's 1994 debut.

The Belfast-based band features singers Tina McSherry, Patsy Melarkey, Mary Mulrine, Siobhan Skates and Rosemary Wood. Their music is primarily a cappella, although guitar, double bass and percussion are used sparingly on some tracks.

A search on the Internet for the Wild Flowers bandmates turns up very little information, although some members have made a few recordings on their own or with new projects. But their careers don't seem to have blossomed the way Total Vocal led me to expect.

The ladies certainly put their voices to good use, performing a varied program ranging from George Gershwin's "Paper Moon," Dolly Parton's "Wild Flowers" and Fats Waller's "Feets Too Big" to Mary Chapin-Carpenter's "Hardway," Paul Simon's "Loves Me Like a Rock" and Neil Young's "Only Love." There are also traditional songs including "The Liar," "Fear a Bhata," "Iko Iko" and "Fairfax."

The package is distinctly nontraditional; this is like no Irish band I've ever heard before. And, sadly, like no Irish band I'm likely to hear again soon.

- Rambles
written by Tom Knapp
published 25 January 2003