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CARA - Grounded 

CARA - Grounded 
Artes Records ARCD5030 

Back in 2016 I reviewed this Germany-based band’s fifth album, Yet We Sing, in these pages. I see no reason to dissent from my assessment when considering its latest, recorded while well and truly “grounded” due to the pandemic; in fact, I’d go as far as to say that this is an even more engaging collection of songs and tunes “grounded” in Celtic tradition.

With a line-up having settled at the core four-piece consisting of Gudrun Walther (vocals, fiddle, accordion), Kim Edgar (vocals, piano), Jürgen Treyz (guitars, dobro, banjo) and Hendrik Morgenbrodt (uilleann pipes, flute, whistles), there’s a real sense of togetherness and non-competitive authority about the playing, key features being Kim’s masterful and forthright yet elegant piano work, Gudrun’s blazing, beacon-like fiddling with its exemplary command of phrasing, and the relaxed chameleon-like instrumental talents of Hendrik and Jürgen – elements all faultlessly executed and brilliantly coordinated with a strong feel for complementary textures. Three guest musicians (two bodhrán players and a cellist) are used sensibly and sparingly and to good effect. And Hendrik’s pipes solo (the slow air, The Pretty Maid Milking the Cow) is a definite disc highlight.

At the same time, both Kim and Gudrun once again prove themselves to be outstanding song interpreters, whether on traditional texts (The False Lover Won Back – Kim’s fresh account of Child #218 – and True Thomas, Gudrun’s new take on Thomas The Rhymer), spirited Gaelic worksong The Cockle Gatherer, self-penned material (Gudrun’s beautiful nature portrait, The Spell Of Winter, which closes the disc) or Kim’s affecting adaptation of Robert Burns’ Lassie, Lie Near Me; a further disc highlight is the band’s gorgeous rendition of Dylan’s Lay Down Your Weary Tune.

You can’t lose with this band – they seem to have everything, but they know when to step back too, and they never outstay their welcome. For even at its generous playing time of 55 minutes, Grounded is not a moment too long, and I was certainly minded to play it all again immediately – not an easy decision in this time-starved age.

David Kidman


This review appeared in Issue 141 of The Living Tradition magazine