Album Review - No Summer - Cinder Well - 2020
Amelia Baker, A.K.A Cinder Well, is a singer songwriter from California, currently residing in County Clare, Western Ireland. No stranger to the folk genre, she has been a member of the folk punk group Blackbird Raum, as well as heading the Dreamscape Folk band, Gembrokers.
For those who somehow don’t know, music in Ireland is pretty much as important as breathing. There is a level of talent, among those artists plying their trade in the corner pubs and clubs, that other countries would die for. Add to this the inspirational, occasionally harsh but always stunningly beautiful and very green landscape, the generous amount of rainy days and misty nights, and you have a sound crafted through centuries so unique, it’s recognised throughout the world.
So, given this, tackling an album in this style isn’t something you take on lightly. Thankfully, as the opening haunting vocals of ‘Wandering Boy’ came over my headphones, any apprehension I may have had dispersed into the rain soak mist currently floating past the Hebridean mountains outside my window. Cinder Well’s voice is as mythical as the landscape she currently resides in and I’m pleased to say, instantly conjures up images of Ireland, in all it's fabled beauty.
Cinder Well, doesn’t attempt to copy the Irish sound; but instead embraces it. Adding her own experiences to the influences that she allows to wash over her. ‘No Summer’, the title track of the album, is a perfect example of this. Sadness, loneliness and hardship flow through the song, like a disused canal through an urban landscape. Yet there are hints of hope within her tale, of something just under the surface, that gives us that ray of light to hold onto. The song matching the rain and flow of the water, bringing us renewed life, a hope for a better tomorrow.
This continues throughout the album, a dark cloud hangs over the world Cinder Well is crafting for us but that doesn’t mean it’s a grim tale, as even on the darkest of days, rainbows can spring up illuminating our way. There is a stark beauty there, waiting for us to accept and allow it to fill us with a renewed hope. Be it a story about an abandoned mental asylum in ‘Our Lady’s’ or the traditional English folk song, ‘The Cuckoo’ (also known as The Coo Coo).
The rest of the album shifts a little, to the other side of the Amelia Baker/Cinder Well persona; the American one. Mixing these unique styles together, yet, somehow doing justice to both, is no mean feat but Cinder Well, does it with ease.
Even when performing ‘Queen of the Earth, Child of the Skies’, an American version of ‘The Blackbird’, both American and Irish influences can be heard, but not as two separate styles. She effortlessly crafts them into one, both stand for or mean the same thing, a Synonyms if you will.
Many artists from the outside that try to copy the Irish sound, always fail. Some have traveled and stayed in Ireland, only to be battered into submission by the relentless winters, before fleeing back whence they came.
A few however, have stuck with the Emerald Isle, forged a place for themselves and embraced the hardships that come along with the natural beauty, then and only then, do they truly understand the importance music holds to the Irish. Only then, do they see that it isn’t just music or someone repeating a song. As an Irish ex-girlfriend (Róisín) of mine (still a good friend) once told me, music is essential to life, to survive, for the Irish *.
‘No Summer’ is a hauntingly beautiful album, embracing the Irish sound as much as paying respects to American Roots, combining both for one of the best albums of 2020, it really should be an album you add to your collection, without a second’s hesitation.
The album comes out on the 24th July 2020 on all good streaming services. You can pre-order here.
For more information on Cinder Well, have a look over on her website here.
* The whole quote from Róisín was, “music is essential to life for the Irish, we need it to survive in her (Ireland's) harsh embrace…just as hot air is to the English”!
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