“Here, traveller, scholar, poet, take your stand…
-“Coole Park, 1929” by William Butler Yeats
While this line by Yeats was initially in reference to himself and his fellow artists who led the Irish Literary Revival in the early 1900’s, it can easily be applied today to Aaron Solomon and the rest of the gang from the Progressive Celtic Rock band Coole Park. With their 2010 album “Water Journeys,” it is obvious Coole Park is certainly taking a stand with their unique brand of music. With incredible skill and artistry, this wonderful group flawlessly straddles both the genres of Rock music and Celtic traditional music. This album will, without a doubt, have a lasting impression on you and will leave you desperately wanting to hear more.
As a whole, the album is a beautiful blend of traditional tunes, new arrangements and original songs. Each song is full of energy and intensity that will grab your senses. Even the traditional instrumentals on the album Old Hag, You Have Killed Me, Money Musk and Dick Gossip’s Reel/Walker Street are incredibly well arranged. The sets are lively, fast paced and will have you up and dancing in no time. Moreover, for each of these choices, Coole Park does a wonderful job blending the genres of Folk and Rock. While some groups lean heavier to one side or the other, this group really strikes that nice balance. Incorporated in each of the traditional tunes Coole Park uses unique instrumentation to highlight the rockishness of the song while staying true to its traditional roots.
Likewise, this can be heard in other traditional songs on the album as well: Fare Thee Well, Enniskillen, Rocky Road to Dublin, and Whiskey Before Breakfast. The driving drums and deep bass line on Rocky Road to Dublin really push the song into the rock genre while the fiddle and rhythm continuously grounds it in its traditional roots. Plus, the fiddle tune Whiskey Before Breakfast is a nice treat with newly added lyrics that adds a fun dimension to this vivacious fiddle tune.
However, I think the real gems on this album are the originals. Aaron Solomon and Lori Ference’s lyrics and arrangements are absolutely breathtaking. Empress of Ireland, perhaps my favorite track on the album, gives me goose bumps every time. The rhythm makes you feel like you are on board the ship and the precise lyrics clearly tell the fateful story of this tragedy with never a word wasted. Likewise, Castaway, also creates a story so vivid in the audiences’ mind that the feelings of desperation and sadness will stay with you long after the last note has ended.
Traighli Bay by Al Parrish is a wonderful song filled with a strong rock guitar line that suits its theme well…the pirate enterprise. As is said in their album notes, Al “reasoned that if pirating was so unprofitable as songs and stories make out, nobody would have bothered trying it at all.” Therefore, this song represents the ‘true’ glory of their trade.
In short, go buy this album. You will not be disappointed. This is one of those albums that doesn’t have a bad track on it. Moreover, it has been so well thought out that the pacing of the songs works marvelously and helps to keep you thoroughly engaged from start to end. My only complaint is that this album was released in 2010, and I am only just now finding out about it. I feel as if I have lost years of listening pleasure. Seriously, I cannot wait for their next release. Until then, I don’t see this album ever leaving my standard music rotation.
- Stephen McSweeney