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CELINE CARROLL 

"Catch You As You Fall"  
Reviewer: Ian Clarke
RATING:   * * *

I was introduced to Dublin songwriter Celine Carroll by Fil Campbell (who covers two of Carroll's songs on her new CD) and was fortunate to hear Celine play a few songs live as support at one of Fil's concerts. I have to say that I was impressed by her performance and also the well crafted original songs and looked forward eagerly to hearing the CD.

 And it is a good CD. Make no mistake there is a great deal of potential here. From the first verse of opening track Blame This World you know that Celine is a gifted artist, accompanied by the versatile Declan Sinnott who also takes the roles of recording engineer and producer. Therein lies the problem for me. The production too often hi-jacks the songs and forces them to drive to Mary Blacksville. Is that bad? Celine can be just as good but she has a wonderful style of her own and too often it doesn't get breathing space.

 Getting back to the songs. Blame this World is instantly hummable and reminiscent of Maura O'Connell with a catchy, pop beat and chorus. Fallen from You is a soulful, Simply Red style ballad with keyboards dominant, a repetitive refrain but not particularly memorable.

 Celine's guitar playing comes through stronger in Fence and it's a nice laid back pop song which gives her vocals a chance to take flight and Sinnott plays tasteful slide guitar.

 Don't Give Up On Your Heart is "Tonight Matthew I'm Going To Be Mary Black" - a lovely coffee table ballad, well sung and performed. Sinnott's guitar sound is a bit cold and jangly here and I'd like to have heard a sax solo. The sound is perhaps a bit dated.

 Human Touch is more of the same mood. Again great harmonies (with herself) on the chorus and you can sing along. In general a bit more variation in pace would be nice to give the album contrast.

 On the Water has a more jazzy, Mary Coughlan feel, and the usual Carroll popular hook. Sinnott's guitar solos are a bit predictable and pedestrian at this stage and the production lacks the dynamics that the song deserves.

 Don't Get Me Wrong is another soul ballad that lacks punch. Celine is in fine voice but the pace flags and the arrangement needs to be fuller.

 Catch You As You Fall and Kept You in My Mind - are Stars in Their Eyes Mary Black soundalike tracks, well constructed songs, nicely sung but again let down by uninspired musicianship and production.

 Great White Hope is like early Coughlan with a swinging accordion accompaniment to a fadeout that almost breaks out of the production stranglehold.

 The closing track in my opinion is the best. Innocence Lost is a song of which Mary Chapin Carpenter would be proud, a lovely ballad, just voice and piano (Anth Kaley of Kieran Halpin fame), which comes closest to the Celine Carroll who captivated me live on stage. 

Despite my reservations about production and arrangements I can recommend Celine's debut CD. Her influences are impeccable but hopefully on some future recordings she'll discover her own sound or capture the stage magic. Too often here the sound is a compromise. She deserves more sympathetic (and imaginative) accompaniment. The percussion for instance sounds computer generated and lacks subtlety. I would have preferred a few more solo tracks, just guitar and voice. This recording was probably done on a very tight budget and with a lot of help from friends. If this occasionally shows, so does her tremendous potential. Never less than listenable but much better live.