Review of “White Swan” from FolkWords, UK

"White Swan" – Susie Glaze & The Hilonesome Band – inspiration of tradition and charisma of contemporary (January 23, 2013)

Reviewer: Tim Carroll


I’ve said it before, ‘new is easy different is hard’ – many artists achieve the former, some the latter, few manage both. Well here’s one that falls into the ‘achieved both’ category. Susie Glaze & The Hilonesome Band have with ‘White Swan’ blended unadulterated Americana folk from a mix of influences – poetic narrative, a soupcon of bluegrass, a touch of mountain-muse and pure invention to create a folk-fusion of that’s both steeped in tradition and fresh as the sunrise. In the process they’ve enhanced songs from James Taylor, Ernest Troost, Steve Earle and Jean Ritchie and a well-travelled 16th century ballad, plus fashioned five Hilonesome Band originals.

As well as some outstanding musicianship there’s Susie’s crystal clear voice, plus some charismatic harmony vocals – from an inspired version of James Taylor’s heart-rending ‘Mill Worker’ augmented with a precisely-placed fiddle intro of Turlough O'Carolan’s ‘Si Bheag, Si Mhor’, through Susie’s painfully emotive vocal on Ernest Troost’s dark narrative ‘Evangeline’ to a stunningly haunting version of ‘Me And The Eagle’ with Steve Rankin’s voice hitting the theme to perfection. There’s a fine slice of interpreted tradition represented by ‘Fair Ellender’ – severally known as ‘Lord Thomas and Fair Ellender’, ‘The Brown Girl’ and ‘Fair Eleanor’ among other titles, through England, Ireland, Scotland and the USA.

‘White Swan’ blends the inspiration of tradition with the charisma of contemporary – and does it faultlessly.

The original songs primarily penned by Rob Carlson with some co-writing from other band members, include ‘White Swan’ a virtuoso take on the time-honoured tragedy of mistaken identity, ‘The Dark Eileen’ a profoundly moving lament, made all the more poignant by Susie speaking the opening lines. And for pure, touching reminesence there’s Fred Sanders’ ‘Rocking in Your Granddaddy’s Chair’ – perfectly embellished by Mark Indictor’s fiddle cuts. Without running down the entire track list, in addition to those listed above, other standout tracks for me are ‘Harlan County Boys’ and  Jean Ritchie’s ‘The Soldier’.

Joining Susie (acoustic guitar, mountain dulcimer, lead and harmony vocals) are Steve Rankin (mandolin, bouzouki, acoustic guitar, harmony vocals) Rob Carlson (acoustic lead guitar, resonator guitar, harmony vocals) Mark Indictor (fiddle, harmony vocals) and Fred Sanders (bass, harmony vocals).

If you love your folk from these ‘island shores’ or the other side of ‘the pond’ this album will become one of your favourites. The album release concert for 'White Swan' is at McCabe's Guitar Shop in Santa Monica on Sunday, 3 March at 7 pm … and were I in that part of the world I would be there.