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June 2019
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Hard Times - a fan review

reviewed by Gertraut, Vienna

Seems that by a stroke of good luck I was an early one in Europe to get the CD, on the 2nd of Dec. already. Now this is a novum, from America usually the books or CDs I order arrive either very, very late (up to 60 days), or in shreds, or the CD cover so broken that the shards fall out when opening the envelope. THIS ONE ARRIVED WHOLE and it must have reached a direct flight to Vienna! And as soon as I had a little time, I started listening.

 First of all, to sum it up, Id say: This is an American CD for International Ears!
And it is good! In fact, very good!

Now this is a little un-precise, so Ill start from the beginning:

At the Munich-Concert by the Celtic Tenors James said that Hard Times could become the Title-Track for their new Album. Well, it has and it is a good start for that CD!

Written by Collins Stephen Foster around 1854 (he lived from 1826 to 1864), you hardly can believe that this song exists so long already! But  Stephen Foster is called the father of American Music, so it must be so. Matthew starts this song, his voice being predestined for it and the lively way the Tenors interpret it, interweaving their voices I love it! (And I love another song of Stephen Foster, Old Black Joe, since I was a  12 year old girl and heard it in England for the first time. Its entirely different, but great!)) He was a great songwriter, his song now interpreted by three magnificent musicians!

The next one was written by Hank (Hiram King) Williams, who lived from 1923 to 1953. It is called Ramblin Man and you have to have the lyrics before you to understand its music really. Hank Williams was an icon of Country Music, took drugs and a lot of alcohol due to an illness. And you could say that a line of this song sums up his life: But when this open road starts calling me& he died during a drive to another venue. It is done brilliantly by these three voices, although I still have to get more feeling for this music.

Bob Dylan  need I say more? Who of us does not know and love his Mr. Tambourine Man or Blowin in the Wind, etc, for a lot of us his music was accompanying us along a big part of our lives& And this is a living musician, he was born 1941 in Minnesota and wrote You Aint Goin Nowhere in 1967. He had always a deep interest in American Folk Music, you can hear that in all his songs. And there the Tenors are, braiding their different voices, even doing the whistling in this song full of happy anticipation  or does it only seem to me so? Lovely!
Maybe you remember that I called this next song Dont you ever leave in my review about the Munich-Concert? I had not heard it before, but I know it now, it is called Lay Down Sally and the lineDont you ever leave me is only part of the chorus and it sounds thoroughly blue. It  was written 1977 by Eric Clapton, who was born in Surrey in England (but he had a Canadian father) and went in the Blues-Rock direction since the sixties.

Daryl starts it in a plaintive voice and all three take their voices back. Hey, who of our three did the almost whispered talking part in this song? I havent found out yet. But it sounds good, slow and  persuasive. (Personally I had given up listening to Eric Clapton, I could never get that horror-fall of his little son out of my mind and the ensuing Tears in Heaven. Maybe I should try to put that away and start again now, maybe if the Tenors sing another one of his songs as good?)
Randy Newman, born in Los Angeles in 1943, wrote the Song Marie. Now this is a tune like a slow waltz, nice for the ears  as long as you do not study the lyrics. The man seems to be good in combining slightly satirical lyrics with it. Later I read that he likes to combine pleasant music with  caustic lyrics. James told us  that the man in this song could only influenced by alcohol declare his love to his bride. Sung beautifully, their voices intertwined in an amazing way, good to listen to, as long as you do not take the lyrics seriously&

Wanted Man, the second song by the singer, songwriter and painter Bob Dylan is really written in the tradition of the American folksongs and even the pronunciation of the tenors sounds different in this lively song. Why is it so common in America that men roam around so much? Is it because of the vast distances? Song is good, anyway&

And now a highlight for me: Four Strong Winds. Music and lyrics by Ian Tyson, a Country and Folk-Singer, who came rather late to a musical career. The Song was written in the early 1960 years. He was born in 1933 and this is his greatest hit, being based on the life of the transient farm workers. I loved it when I heard it the first time at the Munich Concert, it is just what the Celtic Tenors are so good at, a song full of lovely harmonies. And I love their way alternating with their voices in presenting the lines. Lovely!

The next  I would not call it another highlight, rather the heart of this CD. It was written by David Baerwald , a musician born 1960 in Ohio and James told us that David  did write it at first for his newborn baby. Then it became the title theme for the movie Moulin Rouge, which I never saw and I guess this is a bonus for me, for so I can enjoy this absolutely quiet love-song (for there wont be any comparing), either directed to a woman or  and this is the idea I like more  to a tiny child, lying sleeping on a warm blanket, his fathers loving hands cupped to hold the little head and singing very, very softly, as not to wake it. There is no demanding, no Ifs, just deep love surrounding the little human being. James does it perfectly, accompanied only by David Baerwald, just at half voice and with a deep feeling. Its precious, that song&

And the same applies to the next one  Fearless Love. Written by the sensitive singer and songwriter Dillon OBrian, born as youngest of seven siblings in Baltimore to parents who emigrated from Ireland. He must be in his late forties now or early fifties, I think. On the CD- cover it says that Dillon OBrian did with the Celtic Tenors all the vocal arrangements on this CD. His music line is piano-based gentle soft rock and Matthew sings this song beautifully, with the wonderful backing voices of Daryl and James.

Daryl starts the next one  The Pilgrim Chapter 33. This song was written by Kris Kristofferson, who was born 1936, being a very well known Country Singer-Songwriter and Actor since quite a long time. Funny one of my first remembrances of him is his appearance in a Muppet-Show. All I found out about this song is that it is No. 45 from 51 of the lyrics by him. Not much. And thanks to Anja we are provided with the lyrics already, so after reading and listening to it I have decided that the man in this song is another one of these Ramblin Man, forever seeking something and never finding it. Good, but again, who did the talking part in this?
Shenandoah is the beautiful ending to this CD. This absolutely lovely American Folk Song I have known since going to America a long time ago. It is dating back to the early nineteenth century. In my International Song-Book it says the lyrics may tell about a roving trader being in love with the daughter of an Indian Chief and telling him that he wants to take the girl to the far west across the Missouri River. But thats just one interpretation, there exist a few more. And in all of them you see the mighty river flow, glittering in the sun& And it gives these three Tenors all possibilities to weave their harmonies into a wonderful piece of a cappella music&

Now if I look careful, there are only American or Canadian born songwriters bar one, who has an Canadian father and lives in America and they are covering almost 150 years with their songs.& I would say, it is a wonderful CD, its a completely rounded piece of work. Yes, it is worth to listen to it again and again!