A Review of the Muses CD
"Tramps & Hawkers"

"Tramps & Hawkers"
by The Muses

Copyright 2004

This review is written by Kevin McCarthy, 5/05
"Kevin and Maxine’s Celtic & Folk Music CD Reviews"
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What the listener will notice right away on this release is the vocal interplay and harmonies between Tanya Brody and Matthew Gurnsey, who comprise The Muses. The couple have on-going separate musical careers and this is their first collaboration.

Brody's is the stronger voice, akin in sound and range to Canadian singer Loreena McKennitt. Gurnsey provides the male counterpoint. Throughout the offerings, they trade lead and background vocals, in addition to the harmonies. But it is Brody's voice in particular that lends a delicate, almost classical music sound and element to the recording.

A somewhat eclectic group of songs, plus one instrumental, are presented. All are traditional save for a couple by The Muses and ones penned by Tom Waits and Andy M. Stewart. The theme throughout twists and turns around the vagaries of relationships and wandering the world.

The release leads with "Band O' Shearers." Times have certainly changed as a request nowadays for a loved one's hand with the 'incentive' of performing the extremely hard task of shearing would not bring forth many positive responses. The love theme continues with "The Briar and the Rose." Given such a touching operatic/celtic feel, its authorship by Tom Waits is difficult to believe. "Leatherwing" is a cute litany of animals grousing about the difficulties of love. In "Gypsy Hawk," an innkeeper gets a second chance at amor and goes for it, leaving his sedate life behind.

The gentle rhythm of "Mingulay Boat Song" is as seductive as that of the sailors' memories of home. "Nonesuch" is bursting with nature references, while the old chestnut "Wild Mountain Thyme" sparkles with Gurnsey and Brody trading verses and sharing choruses.

Andy M. Stewart's humorous "Ramblin' Rover" actually has a serious point--that of experiencing most everything life has to offer as being a far better choice than living in a safe cocoon of dull repetitiveness. The traipsing about continues in "Tramps and Hawkers." This is the traditional offering, not the more familiar version adapted by the late Jim Ringer.

And how could any celtic music release be called such without a tribute to the drink? But no, "Whiskey You're The Devil" is not Shane MacGowan's autobiography.

Journeying, adoration and imbibing are all unregrettably combined in the closing cut "Health to the Company."

Overall, it is the vocals and the crisp instrumentation of Brody and Gurnsey here that make this release stand out and apart from others in the celtic genre.

This duo is a veritable two-person band: Brody plays harp, guitar, hammered dulcimer, bodhran, zils and acoustic bass, while Gurnsey's repertoire consists of concertina, bowed psaltery, acoustic bass, bodhran, hammered dulcimer, penny whistle, mandolin, bones, dumbek and bells.

Track List:

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