Reviews of albums contributed to

Q--May, 2002

Karen Matheson--Time To Fall (Vertical)

Second, radio friendly solo album from golden-throated Capercaillie singer.

Matheson's second beak from the day job, fronting Celtic masters Capercaillie is a poppier affair than 1996's The Dreaming Sea, mainly because James Grant (the creative brains behind Scottish '80's soul-rock band Love And Money) contributes six songs. Morning is among the best of these, tuneful and with eyes firmly on the singles market. Time to Fall is primed to relieve post-clubbing blues: soft-focused enough that her precise, Presbyterian enunciation doesn't induce any late-night collywobbles. Matheson's undoubtedly a great vocalist, able to project emotion through the Gaelic language barrier and it's intriguing to hear her sing against the sedate strings of the BT Scottish Ensemble. Their presence helps produce an album that's both chilled ansd poised'.

ROOTS & BRANCHES--June, 2002

Karen Matheson--Time To Fall (Vertical)

It would have been all to easy for Capercaillie's Karen Matheson to water down that band's experimental edge to make her second solo album a kind of Scottish Enya. Instead there's clearly a sharp musical intelligence allied to the gorgeous vocal gift legendarily praised by Sean Connery with his 'throat touched by the hand of God' quote. Time To Fall offers a dozen fine contemporary songs, actually eleven, or ten and a half as one is trad. arr. and one has lyrics by Robbie Burns in a new setting by Ross Kennedy, with six from the pen of label mate James Grant. That might look like musical nepotism - the label is owned by Matheson's Capercaillie bandmate and album producer Donald Shaw - were it not for the fact that Grant's songs offer both the lyrical precision and melodic scope to bring out the subtle nuances in Matheson's exquisite performance. A performance finely framed by a production that deftly blends contemporary with classic. A wonderful, uplifting collection.

Steve Morris


Karen Matheson--Time To Fall (Vertical)

Fragile, defiant, lovelorn, enticing ... once again the seductive voice of Capercaillie's lead vocalist trickles into the ears like warm honey. The five year hiatus since Karen Matheson's debut solo album The Dreaming Sea has only served to bring a continuing maturity of vision to the twelve tracks of this, her second outing.

Six new James Grant songs alongside offerings by Donald Shaw, Paul McGeechan and Bobby Henry provide a framework for Matheson's compelling blend of the contemporary and the traditional, supported by a stellar cast of musicians including several Capercaillie colleagues, Michael McGoldrick, Ewen Vernal, Tim O'Brien, James Mackintosh and the BT Scottish Ensemble.

Think cool jazz (Moonchild), tender nostalgia (Morning), lush strings (Bonnie Jean) and hypnotic trance states (Moch Di Luain); add edgy lyrics (Time To Fall) and stately Gaelic soundscapes (An Aitar achd Ard), scatter with ambient sounds, yearning piano and Gaelic mouth music interwoven with English words (My Whispered Reason) and you're there. The more I've played this album, the more each track reveals subtleties and secrets, hooking into the heart like late-night confidences and evoking that poignant conviction that music is the key to life's mysteries.

Husband Donald Shaw's empathic production enhances Matheson's strong sense of her own identity. She's where she wants to be and it's a good place. An outstanding album.

Mel McClellan

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