In about a month or two from now, when spring has been fully awakened, I know I will have an even deeper appreciation for Celeste Ray's music. This is a collection of sun-drenched Celtic songs, about as pleasant and engaging as Irish folk music gets.
Fans of Enya might want to tune in now, although Ray doesn't touch her synthetic atmospherics. A stronger comparison could be made with their voices. Like Enya, Ray has a voice that seems to have been ripped from an earlier age; her vocals -- and style of singing -- do not reflect any contemporary pop flavors. On "Come By the Hills," Ray's voice is so soothing to the ears that you'll want to sleep in the middle of it. To another artist, that might be considered an insult. However, there's nothing boring about Ray's performances. Whether or not you like Celtic tunes, this is fairly accessible material, and it is consistently bright and engaging.
Ray's instrument of choice is the bowed psaltery, and it creates an evocative sound that'll feel new to most of you. Most of the album consists of covers, two of which rock & roll fans may have interpreted as originals --"Scarborough Fair" (popularized by Simon & Garfunkel) and "Whiskey in the Jar" (resurrected by Thin Lizzy and later by Metallica). "Scarborough Fair" is given a more mournful, reflective tone than the dreaminess of Simon & Garfunkel's rendition. On "Whiskey in the Jar," Ray hands it to guitarist James Gilchrist to sing, and the move merely adds more spice to an already vastly entertaining record.