Released: Jan. 19, 2010
Genre: Folk Rock
Label: Racket Records
Number Of Tracks: 8
The Wishing Tree's latest album may be a bit too mellow for rock purists, but the acoustic duo's lush arrangements are still worth of your attention.
UG Team, on march 26, 2010 0 of 0 people found this review helpful
Sound: When not delivering prog rock tunes with Marillion, guitarist Steve Rothery has been taking a path similar to Ritchie Blackmore. While the latter has opted to record more traditional Renaissance offerings in Blackmore'sNight, Rothery takes a bit more contemporary approach to music with folk-derived The Wishing Tree. The lush sounds that Rothery creates alongside vocalist Hannah Stobart have been a true departure for the musician, who has replaced any semblance of rock with an approach that is reminiscent of Loreena McKennitt's Celtic/New Age style. It's been 14 years since The Wishing Tree has released any new material, and fans of the duo's past work should be more than satisfied with the beautiful, often haunting sophomore album Ostara.
Although The Wishing Tree has been deemed an acoustic duo, Ostara's textured sound is reliant on much more than the vocal-guitar combination. In order to accomplish a more layered sound, the band enlisted drummer Paul Craddick (Stobart's husband), keyboardist Mike Hunter, and Rothery's wife Jo as a backing vocalist. The tempo never rises above a certain level, which is why one might easily describe The Wishing Tree as broaching the New Age genre. That's not to say that the eight tracks become overwhelmingly ambient (i.e., Enya territory), but the relaxation factor is certainly present.
Beginning with the melodically memorable title track, the album kicks off and ends with an extremely ethereal feel. Although it was Rothery's brainchild from the get-go, The Wishing Tree's heart and soul does lie in the cherubic voice of Stobart. The Loreena McKennitt comparison does pop up, but I would dare say that Stobart's delivery is even more immaculate. Ostara and Fly are easily the standout tracks, and the band wisely included live versions of both on the edition we received to review. This happens to be one of those cases where a band, particularly a vocalist, has the uncanny ability to sound exactly like the studio recording.
While the folk/Celtic sound rules supreme on most of Ostara, The Wishing Tree does attempt transitioning into the blues genre at times. Seventh Sign immediately makes its nod to the blues known with fantastic slide work from Rothery. The Wishing Tree in general may be a little too sedating (not necessarily a bad thing) for some rock purists out there, but the project never feels as free spirited as Blackmore's Night. // 9
Lyrics: Not surprisingly, the lyrical content on Ostara is just as classy as the musical arrangements. There's a poetic and literary nature to each of the songs, with everything from metaphors to conversational dialogue making the cut. For example, the title track features the exchange: 'Come to me, I'll read your mind,' she said; Warm to me, I'll free your mind,' she said; Then she tipped her raven's head and started to sing. While many musical acts regurgitate the same old rhyme schemes, The Wishing Tree's lyrics are consistently rich and imaginative. // 9
Overall Impression: Ostara is an album worthy of a listen, even if you shy away from anything that might suffer from a lack of percussion. Rothery could have easily made this a project to showcase his talents as a guitarist, but it's obvious that his focus is the song itself. That doesn't mean there aren't any inspired acoustic solos or slide work because you can most certainly hear them within the arrangements without any blatant flash. Even so, Hannah Stobart is the centerpiece for The Wishing Tree, and her vocals alone will keep most listeners engaged. // 9
sweetpeasuzie, on march 26, 2010 0 of 0 people found this review helpful
Sound: The Celtic-pop tinder and lulling cascades of The Corrs and Loreena McKennitt sound like they have been revived by the pairing of lead singer Hannah Stobart and guitarist/keyboardist Steve Rothery who form the alternative pop/ambient folk group The Wishing Tree. Accompanied by keyboardist/percussionist Mike Hunter, drummer Paul Craddick, and backing vocals Jo Rothery, the group's latest CD, Ostara is a bubbly tureen of swirling synth showers, loosely tied rhythmic splashes, and spires of shooting guitar chords dotted by subtle nuances and chime-like embellishments. They are ardent masons who seem to plunge themselves into their work crafting whispery gales that burrow in the breakdowns of their soaring conflagrations. Their songs move organically caramelizing sonic projectiles and crevasses into a seamless stride. The music maintains a harmonious flow through the jostling synths and quivering eruptions planting towering spires in the guitar chords and wavy swells in the rhythm pattern.
Stobart's vocals have a register similar to The Cranberries singer Dolores O'Riordan with lilt-like incisions and instinctive inflections that orchestrate the direction that the songs moods take. The meditative glaze of Holiday Hills is reflected in Stobart's syrupy glides, and the determined stance in her vocals through Easy pervade an unwavering will. The silky folk trimmings trussing the title track have a Celtic-slant in its pacifying wisps, and the easy going atmospherics of Falling have willowy chord drags that fold pouches of gentle shifts, furls, and twists. The group mix it up without compromising the gist of the piece. The country folk tint of Seventh Sign has a mild mannered tempo with sporadic gusts of soaring guitar chords and sprinkles of whining slide guitar. The soft, steamy embers kindling Kingfisher move with the comfy prancing of a cool, country day, and the light dusting of the tenderly stroked acoustics in Soldier move in pace with Stobart's angelic vocalise. // 9
Lyrics: The lyrics are reflective of a storyteller who narrates meaningful tales to audiences, bordering on making the songs a modern form of parables or spiritual hymns. The soft, throbbing grooves of Easy enhance the visuals in the lyrics, Plenty hands to sow the fields of doubt / Not enough to put all the fires out / Waiting for something good It never used to be like this / But they say ignorance is bliss / It used to be easy. The airy synth twinkles and glistening spires of Hollow Hills create a picturesque landscape for the words, Where the hollow hills meet the blacken town / She prays for a time with her eyes cast down / Skin polished silver by the moon / Like the women before her / She'll never leave too soon / She'll wait til the bells ring in the sun / She'll wait til the hollow hills have won All of the words that he never found / He spoke them gently to the ground / And nothing filled with everything / All of the wishes he never shared / He blew them out into empty air / And nothing filled with everything. The clarion ring in Stobart's vocals make the words easy to infiltrate the listener's thoughts like in Soldier when she questions, If you were a soldier, would you fight for love Would you carry her safely through the storm If you were a healer, would you pray for her? The lyrics usually have a third-person voice which makes them sound like Stobart is singing about the lives of the people around her, and yet, she makes them seem so personable. // 9
Overall Impression: The Wishing Tree's album may have a familiar sound to most audiences especially for those acquainted with the likes of such Celtic-based artists as The Corrs, Clannad, The Cranberries, and Loreena McKennitt, and yet, The Wishing Tree's songs have a certain appeal that makes their album Ostara sound unlike anyone else's. In some ways, Ostara is world class music that hearts around the globe will fall in love with on the first listen. Their music has what it takes to become a timeless classic that audiences will enjoy listening to throughout their lifetime, able to move souls in the same vane as such Medieval favorites as Chaucer's Canterbury Tales and Dante's The Divine Comedy thousands of years after their inception into pop culture. // 9