Carol Noonan is simply one of the very best singers to break out of the contemporary music scene. Best known as the lead vocalist of the 90's band Knots and Crosses, she has recorded a number of well-received projects as a solo artist, both on Rounder Records, and more recently, on her own label.
Noonan's last two recordings have been built around a theme. In 2001 she released Big Iron, featuring both original songs and covers about the American West. In 2003 she recorded a personal album containing her favorite Christmas songs as well as several originals. Her newest work, Somebody's Darling, may be her most intimate recording yet. She subtitles this one "songs of war, loss and remembrance." Containing, once again, both traditional songs and a number of her own original compositions, Noonan focuses on the Civil War, with a tip of the hat to WWII's G.I.s and Vietnam veterans. And she pays tribute to those who are left behind, to mourn and remember.
The recording opens with Emma, a Noonan-penned original. It describes the relationship between a young girl, Emma, and her suitor, Henry, who is off fighting in the Civil War, in the form of a letter. Noonan's ethereal voice dips and soars with a warm vibrato taking us on a journey into the past. But the emotions here - a loved one fighting far from home - are as real and as current today as they were in the 1860's.
Noonan's version of the traditional Irish tune Danny Boy is moving and beautifully rendered. Guitarist extraordinaire, Kevin Barry, and Frank Gallagher on viola are exceptionally good here.
Medal of Mine, another superbly crafted Noonan original, poignantly spells out the loss of a young man who never returns from war, leaving a young wife and child to be born:
The most remarkable song on the recoding is called In Flanders Field. It takes the words of the famous WWI poem by Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae and sets them to the inimitable music of Carol Noonan. Alan Williams (formerly of Knots and Crosses) on both Hammond organ and piano, Carol Noonan on banjo, Frank Gallagher on Irish whistles and Mike Rivard on acoustic bass transport us to a war of almost a century ago.
There is only one word for both "Somebody's Darling" and the music of Carol Noonan - timeless. I can't think of anyone else who can make the traditional music of an earlier time, as well as the music of today, sound as vibrant, as vital and as moving and lovely to listen to as Noonan. Somebody's Darling is a classic.
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