What can be said about three sisters who are beautiful beyond belief with pale blonde hair, porcelain complexions and eyes the color of the Pacific ocean? Oh, throw in the fact that they are incredibly talented in so many ways, it fair boggles the brain. Apparently, a lot can be said, since this review was originally three pages long.
The Gothard Sisters, hailing from the misty Pacific Northwest region of the United States, describe themselves as “three sisters performing high-energy Celtic song and dance.” The classic understatement, that. Amazingly multi-faceted, each girl brings her own special offering to the plate. While all three play the violin, 16-year-old Solana is also the lead singer and plays the bodhrán, strings, and djembe; 23-year-old Willow plays the bodhrán, mandolin, strings and cajón; and the eldest of the sisters at a mere 25 years, Greta plays violin, acoustic guitar, strings, cajón, piano and djembe. Willow and Greta also serve as backup singers. Oh, and let's not forget that Greta also runs the group's website (http://gothardsisters.weebly.com~Gothard_Sisters) and Willow creates and sews all their costumes.
Besides the musical talent they have so obviously been blessed with, the girls are also accomplished dancers. They are members of a Seattle-based Irish dance team that took second place at the 2007 World Championships in Glasgow, Scotland. They dance quite a bit in their live performances, thrilling the audiences with yet another aspect of their considerable repertoire of talent.
Story Girl is the groups' 4th album since they started recording 2006 and it has already proven to be a popular addition to Celtic music lovers' collections everywhere. Expect many exciting things to come from these amazing young women.
1. "The Sailor and The Mermaid" kicks off the album in an offbeat manner, capturing your attention immediately with quick tempo changes. As there are no lyrics, Solana's pure, sweet voice is used as an instrument in this piece, bringing to mind a mermaid calling to her sailor from across the North Sea.
2. "Raglan Road" really showcases Solana's vocal abilities, as well as her sisters' when they join in harmony. The instruments take to the background on this beauty.
3. "Celebration Reel" is just what it says…fast-paced, whirling, full of life and foot-tapping fun. This celebration was composed by Greta and certainly gives us a window into not only her amazing music writing skills, but also that of her and her sisters' considerable violin skills.
4. "Scarborough Fair" I have to say this was never a favorite of mine, but the Sisters' version is wonderful. Sorry Simon & Garfunkel, The Gothard Sisters do this old ballad far more justice on the Celtic scale.
5. "Lucille" was composed by Greta and starts as a faerie dance to a singing violin, soon leading to a whirl around the glen accompanied by bodhrán and guitar.
6. "Willow's Waltz" is Willow's chance to showcase her composing abilities. This waltz is a fantastic contribution to the album, giving the listener quite an earful of violin plucking, reeling guitar riffs and Willow's mandolin talents.
7. "A Girl You Don't Meet Every Day" Solana lends her angelic voice to this kinder and gentler G-rated female version of the traditional Irish ballad "I'm a Man You Don't Meet Every Day". The violin and bodhrán work is amazing here, and leaves you feeling like the song ends too quickly. Hit replay.
8. "Midsummer Jigs" jumps right in and grabs your hand, pulling you to the dance floor. Heavy on the bodhrán, violin and electric guitar blend with the driving beat make this different from the traditional jig, and certainly much more fun.
9. "It's the Little Things" is an absolutely beautiful song written by Greta and sung by all three sisters. Their harmonies add a sweetness that perfectly compliments the lilting violin work.
10. "The Three Coins" is a far different song than the rest on this album. Heavy on the bodhrán with fiery fiddlin' and the heel tapping from a fast-paced Irish dance, this one is sure to call to your gypsy side.
11. "Fields of Athenry" With Solana's crystalline voice lending a considerable degree of poignancy to this classic Irish ballad, I have to say this is one of the best versions I've ever heard. The girls' violins and Greta's soft guitar bring a touch of hopeful optimism not usually found in this melancholy piece. This is my favorite of the traditional songs on this album.
12. "Marching On" ends the album in much the way it begins--by quickly grabbing your attention and keeping it throughout the song with driving guitar and bodhrán rhythms, coupled with subtle tempo changes and, of course, the singing violins the girls are so wonderful at showcasing.
Story Girl definitely is a 5 out of 5 star gift to Celtic music. I look forward to seeing what these young ladies bring to us in the future. I most definitely will be watching for the opportunity to see them live!
Celtic Radio Contributor
2013 Updated Celtic Radio Review:
The Gothard Sisters set out to impress the crowd for their music as much as for their fairy-tale image on stage, offering an immersive Irish folk experience with an extra twist.
Despite their young age, these 3 sisters are already seasoned performers, with stage experience under their belt accumulated from a very young age, not only focusing on violin, their main instrument, but infusing their show and records with several instruments as well as vocals, in order to boost the overall dynamics and variety of their output.
The Gothard Sisters are always traveling around the country bringing their show to the crowds, but they are also very prolific in the studio: The trio released 6 full length albums, the most recent of which being 2011 "Story Girl", a collection of original songs inspired by the celtic music tradition.
With such a delicate, organic production value and impressive performances, it is no wonder that "Story Girl" went on to receive praise on an international level, often mentioned as one of the best Celtic records of the year. Where so many musicians risk to get stuck within their technicality, The Gothard Sisters truly bridge the gap between their formal musical training and their more instinctive, emotional side that make their performances so intimate and engaging.