An upbringing in the Alaskan brush, immersed in the Yupik language, has undoubtedly infused Kyle Carey’s music with the sound of the wilderness.
Her’s is, in many ways, the story of a troubadour, absorbing the influences of her childhood alongside rootsy Americana, gospel touches, poetic Appalachian tenderness and Celtic inflections
As she says: “I think I developed a sensitivity to language there (Alaska) that would help me later in my study of Gaelic language and song.”
Monongah has ranked highly among critics and it’s easy to see why. Coming on vocally in a manner not unreminiscent of Nanci Griffith at her peak (especially on the title track), Carey has crafted a debut release both rich and deep.
Recorded in Ireland and produced by Donogh Hennessy (Lùnasa), Monongah features such luminaries as Pauline Scanlon (Lumiere) and Aoife Clancy (Cherish The Ladies) on harmony vocals, Cape Breton fiddler Rosie MacKenzie (The Cottars), Brendan O’Sullivan (Gràda), old-time fiddler Cleek Schrey, Appalachian expert John Kirk (Quickstep) on mandolin and banjo, and Trevor Hutchinson (The Waterboys, Lùnasa) on double bass.
Travels around the US and visits to inspirational landscapes such as the Isle of Skye added colours to her creative palette, and under the tutelage of songstress Christine Primrose, a native of the Isle of Lewis and one of Scotland’s respected traditional singers, she learned the secrets of pronunciation and tone that distinguish such singers in their delivery of a traditional Gaelic song, as evidenced here on the lively ‘Gaol Ise Gaol I’.
Beautifully produced and performed, many of the tracks evoke dappled sunshine on a wildflower meadow, though Carey’s breathy, mountain stream voice and the upbeat, summery music hide an emotional depth among tales of betrayal and heartbreak.
Highlights include ‘Virginia’ and the dreamy, uncomplicated ‘Orange Blossom’. ‘The Star Above Rankin’s Point’ is based on a short story by Cape Breton writer Alistair MacLeod, while ‘Adenine’ tells of a Rattlesnake Baptist preacher’s only son, sold to the circus to make ends meet.
But in truth the whole album is a gentle delight which brings fresh rewards on each repeat playing. If she can maintain this standard, Carey deserves to be held in the highest esteem.
Review by John Atkin
02 Gaol Ise Gaol I
03 Devil At your Back
06 Orange Blossom
07 John Hardy’s Wife
08 The Star Above Rankin’s Point
09 Let Them Be All