An album that ebbs and flows around exotic crescendos, wanting for nothing.
A seasoned songwriter and musician, Maria Shiel has quite a musical history. She has performed shows across Ireland, Europe and the USA and worked promoting international music collaborations even further afield, including China and Russia. Fire in the Sea, however, is her first solo full-length album. And what an album. It seems Shiel has thrown all of her experiences, and some, at this project with stunning results. The concept album is richly steeped in all things earthy and is an ode to her Irish ancestors, who she credits as being the roots of her love of land, music and culture.
The experience begins with sounds of the sea and ends with the sound of fire. It is crucial to be aware of these soundscapes as, if listening in the car, they can sound like white noise and hailstones, respectively! But at a total of ninety seconds, don’t let that put you off. This album is a masterpiece with so many highlights. Each song tells its own story, be it of history, kinship, tragedy or hope, through Shiel’s light, bright, mesmerising and glorious vocal range. Sheil has written all bar one of the songs and, despite the album representing a journey, each song tells a stand-alone tale with Shiel’s incredible writing skill and upbeat contemporary folklore depicting each story in a simple yet striking way. ‘Photograph‘ is a particularly poignant story reflecting the achievements of our ancestors. The chorus is reminiscent of the ethereal Kirsty MacColl, and Shiels songwriting is equally incisive. ‘Call Home‘ has loads of energy; ‘Ebb of the Wave‘ is huge. ‘Bedrock and Waterline‘, and ‘Broken Road‘; epic. ‘Diamonds of Dust‘, inspired by the harrowing Native American Trail of Tears of 1836 is eloquently heartrending. Not to mention the ‘Chant Song‘. At seven minutes long, this remarkable Native American tale is utterly enchanting.
The musicianship throughout this album is exceptional—so many fabulous instruments blending together or indeed striking out solo, yielding huge, compelling melodies. Several songs having beautiful instrumental sections to them; superb electric guitar, flute and fiddle pieces. Hear dazzling electric guitar parts in ‘Desert Child‘ and ‘Diamonds of Dust‘. ‘Gairm Na Gaoithe‘ (‘Call of the Wind‘) is, appropriately, a short but moving wooden flute and concert flute instrumental. The fiddle makes a notable contribution in the rootsy, vibrant, ‘Calling me Back‘, performed by non-other than the mighty Steve Wickham (The Waterboys).
A festival of an album.