"Uncertain Wonders"

(Sheheshe Records 2003)Rise - Uncertain Wonders

Mixing their background of traditional Scottish songs with a folk meets easy listening style, Rise is difficult to classify. They know when to use the guitar riffs and when to pull out the traditional instruments. After a listen to their debut album, "Uncertain Wonders," you can add them to your list of Scottish bands you have heard. Right below Idlewild.

Rise open their album with the serious but thoughtful "Buffalo Song," a tune, which is written from the point of view of Native Americans, that is complimented well with what seems to be the album's trademark squeaky, slightly distorted guitar solos. Slowing down to an easy listening pace, "Thinking About You" is performed well and avoids being over the top. Mellow and beautiful, "True Love's Eyes" seems to float on the vocal harmonies and chimes while a solo, reminiscent of Kenny G, ends the song. With a light and airy voice, Debbie Dawson, who takes lead vocals on the first five songs, has just enough lilt to remind of Dolly Parton (when Parton is not trying too hard), as Rise offer their folk with an edge "Wild Mountain" (traditionally known as "Wild Mountain Thyme"). "Time and Tide," a duet between Dawson and band mate Gerry Geoghegan, sounds odd with a traditional meets folk sound and comparatively psychedelic guitar whining out of place between verses.

Geoghegan seems to have "lost" his substantial Scottish accent as his vocals go in and out, confusingly, of distortion on "Great Big Life," which has a James Taylor feel in style to it. Dawson wins your attention with her clear and gentle vocals on "All I Have," an album stand out, as she sings "If I lived a different life would you leave me all alone/If I left my friends behind would I find another home." Almost country, "I Wonder Why" picks up the pace slightly while "Maybe We" is pure easy listening and romance. Rise are more up beat with their cover of fellow Scottish band Blue Nile's "Saturday Night" as Geoghegan returns to duet with Dawson. Taking the lead himself for a traditional, Geoghegan (and his brogue) return for the gentle and understated "Lomond" and the instrumentally minimalist and historical tune "Cold Glencoe." The album closes with a cover of the late great John Lennon's "Imagine." Rise's version, while earnest, is not anything special and could have been left off.

After starting with the conscience check with "Buffalo Song," Rise's album is not quite what you would expect "“ lyrically or stylistically. For someone looking to get into world music, Rise would be a good bet. Although somewhat unfocused stylistically, "Uncertain Wonders" offers a range of sounds and ideas. Lovely vocals and mostly well executed songs, Rise are anything but uncertain of themselves.


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