Mise Agus Ise - Alison O'Donnell & Isabel Ni Chuireain

Mise Agus Ise - Alison O\'Donnell & Isabel Ni Chuireain
Mise agus Ise (Myself and Herself in Gaelic) combines the talents of two unique performers. Alison's voice first caressed my ears in 1981 when I purchased Mellow Candle's seminal 1972 Acid Folk classic Swaddling Songs. Hearing her floating celestial tones on Heaven Heath was a life-changing experience. Her voice was breathy, ethereal, yet had a hidden strength to it, which made it individual and unique. The combination of her poetic lyrics and wondrous voice made a deep impression on me. I listened to the LP every night for a year, last thing before bed. It was romantic folk rock of the highest order. I grew to love Alison's voice and songs, and she quickly became one of my favourite female singers. Years later when we met in London I heard the rest of her story - in South Africa with Flibbertigibbet and Ellamental, extensive sessionwork, and alternative cabaret. It was a pleasure to hear her sing again in Belgium with Eishtlinn, and while the voice was more mature, its surreal quality remained intact. Hers is a unique voice born of Sandy Denny, Suzanne Vega and Sinead O'Connor's ability to soothe, soar and sway in equal measures. Now back home in Dublin she writes with clarity of experience, recalling her early days and adventures abroad. It's a pleasure to hear Alison singing like an angel again - the feathers ruffled perhaps by life but the spirit still soaring over Dalkey Island. Isabel comes from Donegal, a place rich in music and history. She can pen a jig or an air or dress an arrangement as easily as she smiles (which she does a lot). Isabel plays accordion, piano, keyboards, guitar and whistles and adds a sturdy backbone to Alison's songs. Her musical experience derives from traditional, folk, and jazz sessions and periods with bands like Major to Minor and Celtic Fusion. Her musical and arrangement skills make a subtle yet profound contribution to this project. Through years of playing, writing and arranging, Isabel's talents have been preparing themselves for the right firmament in which to shine - this is it!You are holding a piece of Irish contemporary music history here. For the first time since 1973 Alison is reunited with two fellow members of Mellow Candle, Dave Williams and Frank Boylan. Three decades later their musical alchemy adds an extra lustre to the flame of this recording. It's a pleasure to hear modern Irish, cosmopolitan Celtic Folk Rock music par excellence being made in 2005.

John O'Regan

Not only beautiful, intelligent and possessed of a sprightly, indefatigable muse, Alison is an inspiration to all of us whose paths wend through that perilous realm we call the music business. Having adventured with Dublin school trio, Mellow Candle, into Swinging London and the professional recording world at the height of the '60s and, with a later version of that same, now legendary band, creating a doomed masterpiece in Swaddling Songs, it may seem on paper that Alison O'Donnell had her shot at fame and missed. Far from jaded, she is rightly proud of her part in a record that has matured like a fine wine, gaining admirers in a manner akin to that of the late Nick Drake's similarly finite recorded legacy of the same period. Alison has long managed, with apparent ease, the delicate balance of keeping alive the band's flame while simultaneously pressing on and looking forward with new songs, collaborations and creative pursuits as diverse as drama, political satire, pantomime, voice coaching, family history (a book and BBC documentary), traditional singing around Dublin clubs and, not least, in delivering this richly drawn body of narrative songs. The music industry is more unforgiving than ever these days, particularly to those whose music demands time to be fully absorbed and explored. Now, it seems we all suffer the cruel irony of more choice and less time. With sinuous melodies and instrumentation which, on the surface, root her in the venerable world of traditional music, the Alison of the 21st Century may be older and wiser than the hippy chick of the early '70s but her sense of wonder has not withered; rather, it has matured and become more truly alive and aware. Alison is fearless - bursting with joie-de-vivre, keen to engage, committed to writing and performing with not a shred of pretence. Even a brief time spent in her company, be it conversation or performance, lightens the heart and makes the world, momentarily, seem a brighter and better place. Alison still has something to say - something distinctive that only experience can bring - but has the rare gift of both the energy and enthusiasm of a woman half her age. Be in no doubt: the candle still burns brighter than ever.

Colin Harper, co-author of Irish Folk, Trad & Blues: A Secret History (The Collins Press, 2004)

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