Sirens Smilin'

Somewhere between the Andrew Sisters of the '50s and the Roches, you may well fall in love with the Sirens (as is their way). A triple threat of female voices, Donna Creighton, Nora Galloway and Jo-Ann Lawton work overtime to inject the gentle folk genre with something fresh, aurally intricate and ultimately satisfying. Songs like "Smilin' At Somebody Else" swing with jubilant post-war spirit, while "Heed The Warning" bursts at the seams with twisted, threatening Celtic energy - their three voices accompanied by little more than acoustic guitar, recorder and bodhran. "Em's Song" is a moving account of personal loss and suffering, performed a cappella to unsettling effect. Simple instrumentation is used to showcase the vocals, as evidenced by the violin and upright bass of "Margaret's Waltz" and the piano of "Misery." The album's best track is Galloway's down-home country "All Through The Night," which marries the strength of their harmonies to excellent accompaniment in the form of violin, banjo, bass, guitar and drums - an element that warms up the proceedings considerably. Her earthy "Good Son Good Daughter" is a musical setting that takes the voices to higher heights. There was clearly a vision to showcase the rich interplay of these three complimentary voices with minimal accompaniment and each singer-songwriter receives equal time across the album's collection of tracks. As a result, the album is wildly uneven, cutting across many styles and qualities of material. The strongest songs - the ones that use their vocals to best effect - are those that place the singers within a band context. Of the three Sirens, some work better than others in the lead, but the liner notes leave you in the dark as to who is who. Regardless, this is a quirky and adventurous outing that begs repeated listening and sets the stage for wanting more. (Borealis)