Borne at a time of the unleashing of the new movement of Celtic music (thanks to a string of more progressive bands such as Clannad and Moving Hearts, among others) and long before the women of Celtic music gatherings, Mountain Thyme has had plenty of time to get things right. It is obvious, though, that the music on A Smile At the Door is about much more than just the music, though music be the focus. It is about friendship and love of people as well as tradition and music. It is about appreciating the gifts they have been given. It is about the basest value of thanksgiving and celebration.
That celebration begins with a smile at the door—in effect, an acapella a la femmes quatre, if you will (ahem, unaccompanied voices from four ladies, for those intellectually challenged). "Bold Riley" is a traditional tune of the tried and true Clancy Brothers variety and handled very well, indeed. From there, Mountain Thyme dances and jigs its way through a number of traditional and modern folk songs, all worthy of a listen and each picked for a specific reason. "William Taylor", for instance, is included as a tribute to good friend and fellow singer Frank Harte, who classified it a favorite; The Mountain/Connaughtman's Ramble is a combination of a Tracy Grammer/Dave Carter composition (the idea of the mountain being the central theme here) and a "jam" piece favored at sessions (yes, folk music has them as well); The Night Is Young reflects the very "essence of friendship, place, and enjoyment of each moment in time", as the group so eloquently puts it in the liner notes; and Dougie MacLean's Caledonia—well, the only thing better than a Dougie MacLean song handled well by these ladies is a Dougie MacLean song handled by Dougie himself.
Mountain Thyme is at its best when vocals and/or instruments are loosed in, shall we say, tandem. There can be something magical in four voices harmonically wrapped around a song as in Bold Riley or in four instruments painting musical landscapes as in The Miller of Drohan (a beautiful Celtic tune which has a Japanese bent to it, thanks to the combination of bouzouki and mandolin). The sixteen compositions give you varying degrees of what "Appalachian Celtic", the definition they give to the music they play, really means.
All in all, this is a well conceived and pieced together project, very well recorded and sequenced. In addition, it includes an insert which gives valuable insight into the group and the music (which, in all cases, is more important than it may seem). In fact, the insert is worth it for the pictures of the ladies posed in the foreground of what looks to be beautiful West Virginia country. If West Virginia is anything near what it looks like there, it's no wonder they are smiling.
Edited by: David N. Pyles
Copyright 2007, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
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