The Haunting

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During the late '90s/early 2000s, Clandestine became a darling on the Celtic folk circuit, and their utterly charming debut, The Haunting, shows why, displaying the Houston ensemble's savory stew of fiddle-and-bagpipe instrumentals and ruggedly poetic, highly melodic singer/songwriter fare. The Haunting finds Clandestine front woman Jennifer Hamel coming into her own as a composer on the maudlin "Innisfree" (with lyrics cribbed from W.B. Yeats) and the gorgeous opener, "Dunlavy's Castle." On the latter, the New York native approximates what it might sound like if Natalie Merchant knocked heads with Maid Marian, her impressionistic melding of history and fantasy a detail-rich revelation. Meanwhile, Highland piper E.J. Jones -- Hamel's former paramour and a fast friend since their school days at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh -- is his usual indispensable self. The same goes for rough-and-tumble fiddle virtuoso Gregory McQueen. In fact, each musician provides unmatched instrumental accompaniment on Hamel's tunes, while filling out the release with rousing medleys of self-penned and traditional material.

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