One route to a successful album is to lure the listener in before locking them into the groove of the record. With delicate astuteness and refined skill, Catherine MacLellan has accomplished this on THE RAVEN’S SUN, the fifth album from this award winning East Coast Canadian songstress. Teaming up wonderfully with long term musical partner Chris Gauthier, the pair has explored the self-released path to put together a record which succeeds in balancing the art of acoustic and electric alongside a bunch of songs etched with a faint distant familiarity.
No doubt exploiting the gifts bestowed by her father, the legendary Canadian singer songwriter Gene MacLellan, Prince Edward Island native Catherine continues to melt into the roots sound so entrenched in her home surroundings. The new record resonates with this influence and many listens reveal an album of two parts, equal in merit but sufficiently different in their feel and mode of effectiveness.
The first half a dozen tracks each have an alluring element either through their instant effect, melody or song construction to tempt you into the record. The stand out number from this segment is the utterly charming ‘Tell Me Luella’ which will have roots fans drooling over a song straight out of the Gillian Welch School of music making. This is closely followed by the enigmatic ‘Don’t Call Me Stranger’ where a darker sounding number packed with indie vibes steers the album in a more contemporary direction with a memorable chorus line and electric guitar pieces.
Album opener and title track ‘The Raven’s Sun’ reveals Catherine’s elegant vocals right from the first bar to launch a record which demands your attention. Catherine and Chris have enlisted the services of Nashville session musician Andy Leftwich (Ricky Skaggs and Kentucky Thunder) to play fiddle on a pair of mid album roots oriented tracks in ‘Jack’s Song’ and ‘Beneath the Lindens’. The other captivating track on the album’s first half is the enchanting ‘Gone Too Soon’, another song sung beautifully in a timeless manner with Chris’s mandolin providing the backdrop.
Having been seduced by the fabulous first few tracks, the albums settles into a groove where mood prevails over instant appeal and you are led into a world of tranquil serenity. Once again graceful vocals and subtle guitar work are the keys that lock you in and the sound is best epitomised in the pair of tracks, ‘Hold On’ and ‘Frost in the Hollows’. Read downbeat as sensitive for ‘Rushing Winding Wind’ and ‘Left on My Own’ while optimism reigns supreme on the closing track ‘Winter Spring’. Despite not possessing the highs of the first half, the latter part drifts only in soothing your senses and makes the album a neatly packaged complete offering.
It will only take a couple of listens to be enamoured with the sound of Catherine MacLellan and THE RAVEN’S SUN is a release that will fully deserve all the plaudits received. This is a composed and assured record and confirms once again what a talented crop of Canadian folk and roots artists are being promoted in the UK at the moment. This is not to the detriment of the home grown scene but provides a perfect complement.