Sunhoney, November (Vertical Records, 2002)
November is a briskly refreshing CD out from Scotland. Sunhoney is an intriguing cross between fellow Scots Capercaillie and Ireland's Bevel Jenny, comparisons I'm not known to make lightly.
The players are Alyth McCormack with her electric honey vocals, Aidan O'Rourke on fiddle, Kevin Mackenzie on guitars, Donald Hay of percussion, Quee Macarthur on bass and percussion, and finally Fergus Mackenzie with percussion, piano, and programming. The band's approach to percussion is the constant-presence style. However, for all the percussive power, their sound never gets heavy-handed. Instead, they present a very high quality of jazzy, rock-inflected bass and drumming.
"Hazy Hill" sets the tone for the project with a tasteful layering of electronics and acoustics. Alyth's vocals are provocative on the songs. "Seasons" reminds us about the freedom of mind from its environs both within and without, "Change the season you see / Why be winter with me? / Have more daylight than day / If you said that you want it that way." She has a unique way of sneaking up on you with turns and surprises in her delivery. On "Winter's Breath" she jumps octaves in less than a syllable.
"Peckham" is a number that stands as a grand example of the electrified Celtic sound. Each instrument powers its own steam while maintaining that respectful balance with the rest. The tune set also showcases one of those rare accomplishments of this genre, which is the ability of one instrument to come in, solo, play off from one or more of the other players, and then segue back for a bit.
So here's one band that rides out the seasons' cycles with the human power of perspective and choice. It makes for a lack of antagonism between the images and tunes of old and the possibilities of the modern. That's an appropriate persuasion for one of the few bands I've come across lately that does traditional and cross-over Rockish fusion equally well.