Twisty Willow

Darkness in the Sky

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Since its beginnings in 1990, Twisty Willow's membership has varied from three, to four, to five members. This album was recorded in 1996, when they were a five-piece band, featuring instrumentals on guitar, fiddle, bodhran, double bass, accordion, and flute. They do rousing songs really well on this album. "South Australia/Sailor's Hornpipe" is a rollicking sea chantey, and they perform one of its many variations with verve and zest. Give this one repeat airplay -- it merits it. Everybody who does Celtic does "Star of the County Down," but Twisty Willow manages to give it their own distinctive turn with this punchy, fast-paced, upbeat version. While lively and quick, they keep the enunciation clear on the lyrics for this one, so it does not feel hurried. It's a bonus that they perform the extended version as well, including the verse about the dance, not just the harvest fair. On the other hand, there are times when slowing it down just a touch would have helped, as their version of "Johnny I Hardly Knew Ya" sounds a bit rushed. There are places where the lyrics can't be clearly distinguished. Also, considering that the song is about a woman coping with the grievous wounds of her returning soldier, it could have done with more of a woman's voice on the verses, rather than just the chorus. Even so, it's a workable performance. Softening the tone, "Darkness in the Sky" is a very moving ballad about a wife's determination to wait for her transported husband's return, even for 20 years, and features Barb Bycroft on vocals. "All on my Ain" is a modern tale of loneliness and solitary survival written by group member James Bonar, who also does lead vocals for it. "Lark in the Morning Jig Set" is a fast-paced instrumental performance, a reminder that Twisty Willow got its start as a Celtic dance band, and that it ably continues this aspect of its skills. With sounds to please both casual listeners and regular fans, Darkness in the Sky can serve both as a introduction to those new to Twisty Willow, as well as offering additional performances to encourage their returning audience.

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