Ceili Rain 2023
Celtic-rock ensemble out of Syracuse send the listener a series of idealistic letters and set the course for cloud nine.
He may have penned “Some Heads Are Gonna Roll” for JUDAS PRIEST and “Rise To It” for KISS, and Cher might have covered “Could’ve Been You” from his solo longplay, but not a lot of those familiar with Bob Halligan Jr.’s songs are aware of CEILI RAIN, a folk-informed endeavor the veteran’s been driving for nigh on three decades now, their ninth offering released a few months after the American artist’s 70th anniversary. Ranging from intimate to anthemic, the dozen of its numbers carry the impeccably crafted message of goodwill, and though the platter’s very title suggests they head for heaven, there’s nothing wrong about getting emotionally high on the way to the better plane of existence, and this record is a perfectly vehicle to get there.
However, if the group’s sonic passengers feel pacified by the voice and pipes that pull the audience into the album’s titular opener, it doesn’t mean their joyride isn’t going to be bumpy, and the cut’s catchy groove will have the listener jump and jive, just like the mellifluous gorgeousness of the bluegrass-tinсtured “Love Corporation” – a soulful piece which would hit the charts in an ideal, idyllic world – will have everyone sway along. Yet while the communal numbers on display are irresistible, the tenderness and warmth of the honeyed “My Specialty” and the scintillating “It’s You I Love About It” – where dance beats and handclaps come spiced with Burt Mitchell’s tin whistle – are easy to relate as well, and the homespun balladry behind “Birdhouse” can melt the hardest of hearts, especially when Halligan’s vocals invite a gospel choir to join in. Much heavier, “Ten Million” deals with pandemic in a similarly spiritual manner, Kevin de Souza’s bass punctuating the collective life-affirming flight, and Raymond Arias’s guitar soaring most impressively, but the strings-drenched “One Pull Nearer The Shore” and “Used To Be White” introduce, respectively, medieval polyphony and paisley psychedelia to the flow.
It’s difficult, then, to not be moved by the vibrant, vigorous “Fall To You” and the belligerently marching “Twenty Seconds” which brandishes the band’s Celtic roots with fantastic panache Bob’s music used to demonstrate back in the day. With songs like these, no gate need to be crashed – they should welcomingly open by themselves.