Lori Gordon

Bletherings From a Music Obsessed Mind

Yvonne Lyon – “Ashes & Gold”

yvonne ashes

Yvonne Lyon’s latest offering, Ashes & Gold, is a brilliant study of the paradoxes of life: the hopeful and the horrific, the light and the dark, the beauty and the difficulty. The songs themselves range from the light-hearted to the heart-breaking.

Though Yvonne admits to really struggling with this album, between writer’s block and the high expectations of producing something better than A Thousand Questions Why, that struggle is not apparent here.

The album opens with “Feel the Light,” one of two songs inspired by Yvonne’s trip to Cambodia earlier this year. Though she saw abject poverty so extreme that even the simplest things could make a huge difference, there was still a sense of contentment and happiness that pervaded their lives. That optimism shines through on this song and it sets the mood for the emotional journey the album brings us on.

The second song inspired by that visit is the album’s most heart-breaking. “The Reckoning” was written after her tour of Toul Sleng, a former interrogation center used by the Khmer Rouge now turned into a genocide museum. It’s a lament for the women who lost husbands, sons, fathers and brothers, some losing 5 or 6 family members. The stark arrangement, primarily piano and voice, is breathtakingly emotional.

At the other end of the spectrum is the very light-hearted “Tiny Things,” a song about the wonders of the world as seen through the eyes of her 2-year old niece. Equally light is “The Coffee Song,” about those days when curling up with a cup of coffee and a good book is the recipe for a perfect day.

Overall, there is a beautiful sense of depth and maturity to this album that really highlights Yvonne’s songwriting abilities. Ashes & Gold is best summed up by “All is Not Lost,” a song that reminds us that everything we experience, whether good or bad, goes into making life what it is and that none of those experiences are ever wasted.

Even though the album certainly has its dark and intense moments, there is still a sense of light that shines through to the end. The result is an uplifting affirmation of life, love and sense of self.   Ashes & Gold is an exquisitely crafted album destined to shine for a long time.

To visit Yvonne’s official website, click here.

To visit her MySpace page, click here.

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September 24, 2009 Posted by | Album Reviews, Folk, Singer-Songwriter | , , , , | Leave a comment

A Retro Look

As I’ve been doing some preliminary pondering of my Top 10 Albums of 2009 (which will be published at the end of the year), I realized that there were also a number of albums I heard for the first time this year but that were released prior to 2009. Some are more recent releases and some are rather old. A few of those albums really blew me away, so I’ve decided to give them a shout-out. After all, it’s never too late to discover “new” music!

This list is not in a particular order.

Archie McAllister – A Fiddler’s Tapestry. Ok, this first one is a bit of a trick. This actually was released in 2009 but it’s a compilation of older material, therefore I thought it better suited here. I hadn’t really listened to the west coast fiddling style before this and I quite like it. His slow airs made my mouth drop open.

Check out the tracks “Ossian” and “Lachlan Dubh”.

Gjermund Larsen Trio – Ankomst. Norwegian fiddler with a slow, sultry jazz style. Absolutely delicious! And it’s definitely chill music. I can’t wait to hear what he does next.

Check out the tracks “Midnattsdrøm” and “Regntung Dag”.

Rallion – For No-One and Everyone. I still can’t get enough of this album! This is their debut release. Marieke McBean’s voice is to die for and the fiddle work takes my breath away!

It’s really hard to narrow it down to a couple, but check out the tracks “I Am Stretched On Your Grave” and “Fisherman’s Wife”.

Fiona Driver – Orkney Fire. Very talented young fiddler from Orkney who is also a prolific tune writer. Of the various styles I’ve heard, this reminds me the most of America’s Appalachian music, which has its roots deep in Scottish music. It’s a gorgeous album!

Check out the tracks “Fidgarth Fiddles” and “Graham In A Tent”.

Synnøve Rognlien – Undr. Synnøve has created an Avant-garde, lush aural tapestry of song and sound. Gregorian chant sits side by side with jazz & electronica and the result is intoxicating!

Check out the tracks “Det Røde” and “Serk”.

Le Vent du Nord – Dans les airs. Until giving them a listen, I hadn’t realized how similar Quebecois music was to Breton music, especially with the call & response songs. This is a fantastic album full of hot instrumentals and great songs. High energy!

Check out the tracks “La Piastre Des États” and “Les Larmes Aux Yeux”.

Fridarey – Across The Waters. Lise Sinclair, a member of this family group, has a stunning voice and is the reason I got this album (she also has her own solo recording out).

Check out the tracks “Day Dawn” and “Wild White Swan”.

Whirligig – Celtic Dawn. This is the oldest album in the list, released back in 1995, but I’m still just as amazed by it. It’s early music meets Celtic music, with jazz elements thrown in for good measure. The recorder & fiddle work of Fiona & Jenny Cuthill is sublime!

Check out the tracks “Aisleag Ur” and “Roslin Castle” (one of my favorite arrangements of this tune).

Yvonne Lyon – Fearless. This is Yvonne’s second album, which was released a few years ago, and it is an excellent showcase of her exquisite songwriting skills. There’s something about this album, even in the darker, more emotionally intense songs, that is uplifting.

Check out the tracks “Come” and “Love”.

Gordon Gunn – Shoreside. He’s a recent find for me, thanks to a suggestion from a friend, but I was wowed from the get-go. His fast sets are amazing but his slow airs are divine! They stopped me in my tracks.

Check out the tracks “Orkney” and “Hogties Reel/Wooden Whale”.


All of these albums can be found either at Music in Scotland, Amazon, or iTunes.

September 22, 2009 Posted by | Avant-Garde, Celtic, Jazz, Singer-Songwriter, Traditional | , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment