CD: Instrumental Songs of Good Cheer
Artist: Lisa Lynne and The Elfin Love Tribe
Sometimes in life, what starts out as fiction begins to materialize to become fact. Such was the case for multi-instrumentalist Lisa Lynne and her once fictional Elfin Love Tribe, which has just released its long-awaited second album. According to Lisa, who is one of the top ranking folk harpists in the world: “I was always known for very ethereal music but my love for Celtic and Renaissance music was always very strong. I had an opportunity to create a recording for a retail music listening station with the theme of Celtic Renaissance so I originally was hired to create a specifically themed recording. What started as just a work project ended up taking a life of its own, and being so much fun. I discovered my inner elf.” When that music company went out of business, Lisa redesigned the cover, renamed it Fairie Tales, and eventually gathered an actual touring band called The Elfin Love Tribe to play this music. The album became popular with a surprisingly diverse crowd, however with all the many musical activities Lisa is involved in, it took a number of years to get to the point of releasing this new album.
One of Lisa’s tribe-mates on this project is her longtime collaborator Aryeh Frankfurter, who plays Swedish Nyckelharpa, violin, viola, guitar, cittern, hammer dulcimer, and harp. The other member of the inner circle is George Tortorelli on bamboo flutes, recorders, whistles, and percussion. Each is a virtuoso in their own right, but as it is often said: the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. Their chemistry is magical. I found it fascinating to learn that despite the decidedly acoustic nature of this music, all three of these musicians came from a rock music background earlier in their careers. In addition to frequently performing together, this trio of world-class musicians also collaborated on a beautiful album called Weaving Worlds that I had the pleasure of writing about. Incidentally, on this new release, Lisa plays Celtic harp, Ukranian bandoura, mandolins, guitar, bass, and percussion. A number of other very talented musical elves contributed their gifts to the recording as well on wind instruments, strings, and percussion. One thing that sets the Elfin Love Tribe apart from their other musical projects is that, according to Lisa, it was created as a way to express a playful fun sound that was not so serious, and a fun performance group for fairs and festivals.
And that “playful fun sound” certainly comes through on the album, which is a blend of both traditional tunes and original music. The sparkling harp arpeggios that open the first track, one of Lisa’s originals, create an effervescent air that is immediately uplifting. As other instruments join in, its not unlikely that the listener may find their foot tapping or head nodding to a lively melody that conjures images of elves and fairies dancing in the woods. It’s hard to overemphasize the visually evocative quality of this music. Listening to song after song, I kept feeling that this is a soundtrack in search of a film. If a sequel to The Hobbit is ever filmed, this music would fit like a glove. A track called “Homeland” glows with heartfelt warmth and the comfort of being where one belongs. This feeling extends into the next song, appropriately entitled “Song Of Good Cheer.” I especially appreciated the exquisite interplay of the ensemble, working together to support the melody, with various instruments rising out of the mix for a solo, then receding. The music is masterfully arranged with a perfect balance of sound and space.
One of the album’s slower songs, “Wishing Well,” has a dreamy ambience that speaks to our longings and aspirations. However, a more earthy element is heard in the drumming that starts off the next song, “Merry Be,” as stringed instruments and airy flute dance to the rhythm of this festive traditional melody. One thing that fascinates me about Celtic music is its ability to project an aura of sweetness or joy, yet contain the faintest whisper of wistfulness in certain passages. That was the feeling I got from a classic tune called “Childgrove,” While the impressions one receives from music are personal and subjective, other listeners may hear something different in its light innocent refrain. One of my favorite tracks was a gentle piece called “Everflame,” which I found moving and inspirational, and featured a soulful violin solo in the first half. The album draws to a fitting conclusion with “Road To The Realm,” another soundtrack-like composition that delivers the listener to their destination with a sense of having been on a journey to a wondrous place, that they will surely want to visit again. If I had to choose one word to describe this album it would be “enchanted.”
And as a fitting conclusion to this article, Lisa reveals a bit about where this music came from and where it is going. In her words: “Because I have in the past received many lovely letters and videos from school kids that have made up dances to the original Elfin Love Tribe Fairie Tales CD, I pretty much made this record for them. I am going to send it out to as many dance teachers as I can find for the purpose of creating dances to the tunes. I will then take my video crew out to the local schools and do a three camera shoot to celebrate their efforts and give them a very sweet video, with cutaways to the band playing the music live. It’s an experiment that I hope will work, as I would love to use the end result to encourage more music in schools, more instruments available.” She concludes by saying: “The Elfin Love Tribe will always be devoted to sharing joyous music and reminding folks to be light hearted in life.” If that is their goal, they have certainly achieved it with this album. There is a buoyant quality to their sound and it’s hard to imagine not feeling elevated and enraptured by it’s merry melodies and elfin attitude.