1999 / North Star Music
Acoustic Ensemble with Susan McKeown and Cathie Ryan
Review by Kathy Parsons
This collaboration between Irish singer/songwriters Susan McKeown and Cathie Ryan, and pianist/composer Robin Spielberg is a celebration of motherhood “for anyone who has ever had a mother, is a mother, or is likely to become a mother!” I’m not sure Mother’s appeal will be quite that universal, but since most of the songs have a Celtic feel to them, it should fit into the broad popularity of that genre. All but five of the fourteen tracks are vocals - some of the lyrics are in English, some in Irish; one is a haunting Native American poem translated into Gaelic, “Ancient Mother”. All of the vocals have a traditional, “folkie” feel to them, and although this is a celebratory CD, some of the lyrics are tragic or sad - especially “Jennie’s Song” and “Rock Me to Sleep, Mother”. I know, life is like that!
Robin Spielberg is one of my favorite composers, and, for me, her instrumental contributions are the strongest tracks on the CD. “Walk With Me”, “Circle of Life”, and “Mother’s Celebration” are new, and all are beautiful. Robin also included her tribute to her grandmother, “A Song For Jennie”, and wrote a new arrangement of “Amy’s Lullaby” with lyrics and a new title, “Baby’s Lullaby” (sung by Cathie Ryan) - a very tender and gentle lullaby. “Real Pretty Mama”, which is a cute tribute to her own mother, marks Robin’s debut as a singer/songwriter!
This is a very interesting project that covers a lot of musical territory as well as many of the various aspects of motherhood and family relationships. The liner notes are full of photos from the three women’s childhoods (with their mothers), and the lyrics as well as the backgrounds of the pieces are included. It makes a very nice package.
September 9, 1999