I put on Heartwood, the most recent album by Canadian singer/songwriter Sora, for a friend of mine and he said “I feel like I'm in Lord Of The Rings.” With Sora's courtly style, Celtic influences, and operatic voice, she'd perfectly fit the soundtrack of a Fantasy epic. Relax and listen to these dreamy soundscapes and you may be transported to a dewy Irish briar, sprites and fairies fluttering about, or you might be bored out of your mind. Either way, don't put this disc on during a party unless you're trying to clear it out and get to bed.
On Heartwood Sora croons simple songs over lavish orchestrations. A string quartet meshes with chimes, harp, synths, accordion, various other instruments, and something called a Marxophone that sounds like a mandolin combined with a harpsichord. It's a nice thick brew doused in reverb. I think Sora and producer/arranger Douglas Romanow are trying for an “enchanted forest” sort of backdrop. There's a traditional Celtic core but it's decorated with modern trimmings. You might hear something like this at a hippy-dippy women's retreat. I'm not knocking the quality of it at all, though. The arrangements are really thorough and smart. It's lush, soothing music and completely top-notch production.
Sora's first album was entirely folk songs of the British Isles, but all eleven tracks on Heartwood are original. Her style of writing is mostly traditional but a few inventive tricks stand out. The orchestration on “Hurricane” sounds fresh with some jangly electric guitar and a bit of eastern flavor. Bits of Tabla and Sitar-like drone sounds dot the song, and something that sounds like a flute (I think an accordion or synthesizer) plays cool jazzy licks. “Eurydice” slides back and forth between major and minor keys with an exotic-sounding melody (for the music dorks out there, it shifts between natural minor and phrygian major. Cool.). The lyrics shift between folk legends and personal stories. It's all a balancing act between traditional roots and the creative juices of a hard-working singer/songwriter.
Give Sora's Heatwood a chance if you want soothing, earnest songs with high production value, or if you're curious to hear a Celtic folk singer branch out and perform original songs. She's a talented mezzo-soprano so fans of an operatic style may be more than satisfied. There's a chance you'll be bored to tears, but one person's dull is another person's soothing relaxation.
Best Tracks: Hurricane, Eurydice,Twilight
June 15, 2010