Words of Love
Produced by Allison Lupton
When I listen to Words of Love, I hear clean, elegant lines. I think of minimalist art and architecture transplanted into Celtic-style music. Lupton’s collection feels light and effortless but when you listen closely, you know she understands form. You know no detail was left hanging.
In Away, Lost Jimmy Whelan and the Ontario Tune Set, you hear traditional tunes that are both familiar and fresh. Lupton’s own songs show a deep knowledge of Scottish, Irish and Canadian folk traditions and history. There’s a crystal clarity to this album, recorded by Jeremy Darby and Julian Decorte at Canterbury Music Company. Even the slow, sensitive tunes have clean outlines; each musical voice etched clearly and expertly. Lupton plays the flute like a dream and her voice is so pure as to be, itself, flute-like. She is accompanied by a fleet of talent, including musicians, Andrew Collins (mandolin), Shane Cook (fiddle, mandolin), Tony McManus (guitar), Joseph Phillips (bass), and Ivan Rosenberg (dobro). In other words, Words of Love is a treat.
Jackie Bell, Penguin Eggs
Link to pdf of review: Allison
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I reviewed Canada (Ontario)-based Allison’s previous album, Half My Heart, back in autumn 2014, and its successor, though a long time in coming, proves worth the wait. It’s a delicious mixture of folk, bluegrass and country, on which Allison’s own singing and flute playing are augmented with the musicianship of a neat little band that includes Andrew Collins (mandolin), Tony McManus (guitar), Shane Cook (fiddle), Joseph Phillips (bass) and Ivan Rosenberg (dobro).
Six of the album’s ten cuts are Allison’s own compositions. These are mostly couched in a thoroughly appealing contemporary bluegrass idiom, highlights being the abundantly catchy title song and the authentically breakdown-styled What Will I Dream. Dusty Boots tells of Allison’s paternal grandfather, a thresher in the late 1920s, while I Will Rise was inspired by “the strength and courage of our loved ones”. Disc closer, the Grand River Waltz, is a delicate instrumental penned by Allison herself.
Pick of the album’s non-originals is Lost Jimmy Whelan, a traditional Canadian log-driver ballad with a kinship to The Unquiet Grave, where Allison enjoys guest contributions from Jess and Richard Arrowsmith. She then delivers an edgily syncopated (and unexpectedly quite up-tempo) account of Poverty Knock. The track list is completed by When First I Went To Caledonia and, midway through the disc, an Ontario Tune Set, on which Allison’s flute playing (and Shane’s feet) get the chance to shine.
Words Of Love is a worthy follow-up to Allison’s three previous albums – it could just do with being longer than 35 minutes!
This review appeared in Issue 131 of The Living Tradition magazine
“Words Of Love” is Canadian born Allison Lupton’s fourth full length album since her debut offering in 2001. The previous one was issued in 2014 entitled “Half My Heart” which I also had the opportunity of listening to and the joy of reviewing.
Allison’s brand of folk music has a distinct Celtic sound to it which, when combined with the fiddle and mandolin, both prevalent in the backing tracks, makes for an album of sheer delight. Her backing band deliver quality support to her songs and help to produce an album of folk excellence. Allison herself is a superb flautist to add to the all-round quality sound of the band.
Allison possesses a voice which is as crystal clear as mountain spring water. There is also a delightful innocence to it which when combined with her perfect diction delivers every word crisply and clearly to the listener’s ear.
The title track “Words Of Love” has a country feel to and includes some brilliant fiddle playing by Shane Cook. The lyrics are based on a love letter written in 1940 and found many years later in a church. “Poverty Knock” is about the hardships of life in the North of England in the 1890’s. The final track “The Grand River Waltz” is an instrumental which affords the band the opportunity to show off their skills, which I have to say are prolific.
All of the tracks on this album are an absolute delight and are all brought to life with Allison’s beautiful voice. An album to savour.
Rory Stanbridge, Fatea Magazine
Here in Canada we are blessed to have some of the most original, and talented artists in the world . Ontario’s Allison Lupton gives us songs and tunes steeped in history, love , sadness and joy . Her latest work “Words of Love” Is a musical document deeply rooted in who and what we are as Canadians
Andy Donnelly, CKUA, The Celtic Show
In Lupton’s songcraft, it is hard to tell where the traditional pieces start and original pieces end in her contemporary folk sound. Every melody has a timeless old-world charm to it.
Coral Andrews, The Record
Allison Lupton is a farmer’s daughter who grew up a stone’s throw from Canada’s premiere Shakespeare Festival. She may have earned a Master’s degree in Music, nominations from the Canadian Folk Music Awards and a songwriting prize from Folk Music Ontario, but she still writes and sings the kinds of tunes that stay with you whether you’re out on the town in your dancing shoes or trudging in the garden in your Wellies. “Words of Love”- a fourth full-length album bursting with history, a stellar touring band and Allison’s voice – “as clear as a clear as a country stream” – is sure to quench your musical thirst.
Writer, Musician, Broadcaster for CBC Music
“Allison Lupton’s balance of strong composition and sensitive musicality makes her a fine contemporary songwriter and interpreter of the tradition and the works of her fellow songsmiths.”
“…..a performer with a wide range of abilities.”
Canadian females…The big, jaw-dropping shock comes with the opening track of Allison’s album; the band sound so close to the Long Hill Ramblers and the lead voice so close to Laura Hockenhull that it is quite difficult to believe that it is someone else. After that shock it quickly becomes obvious that here is a performer with a wide range of abilities; a good singer who can write meaningful songs, who has an excellent taste in her choice of traditional songs and the compositions of others and a fine instrumentalist on the flute. Highlights of a fine album include that opening track and another of her compositions, Over The Ocean To Canada and a lovely waltz, Julie’s Waltz, with her flute matched against fiddle and mandolin. She also does very well with the Scots song The Lightbob’s Lassie.
Vic Smith- fROOTS
“It was such a pleasure to welcome Allison and her band, all fabulous musicians in their own right, to Lewis. Wonderful varied performances which were thoroughly well received.”
Caroline MacLennan, Artistic Director, Hebridean Celtic Festival, Stornoway, Lewis, Scotland
“Allison has a beautiful, clear singing voice, an eclectic capability and sensibility and the ability to tell a story with her flute. She is a wonderful musician and a lovely person.”
Stuart McLean, The Vinyl Cafe, CBC Radio
“The Alison Lupton Band brought their Canadian folk music across the Atlantic. Lupton’s voice is wonderful and was supported by the band from Ontario, Canada. This band would be a highlight at any festival”.
Dick Dixon, Warwick Folk Festival Director, Warwick, UK
“The band’s sophisticated arrangements surround Allison’s voice and flute like a warm blanket on a cold winter night.”
Tom Druckenmiller, Sing Out!
“Not only is the standard of songwriting on this CD first class, but so is the musicianship with which Allison surrounds herself.”
Yet another discovery for me! There’s so much talent coming out of Canada these days and Ontario’s Allison Lupton is further proof. She’s a fabulous singer with a wonderfully clear and expressive voice and she also just happens to be a flute player par excellence. Originally starting off her musical career in the band Killiecrankie, and subsequently a Canadian Traditional Music Awards nominee, she’s currently Musician-in-Residence at Ontario’s famous McDougall Cottage. The latter connection gives a strong clue to her musical sympathies, for the music of Scotland and Ireland are central to her repertoire. However, having said that, only two of the songs on Half My Heart (which turns out to be only Allison’s third CD in 14 years) are of traditional Scottish origin: The Lichtbob’s Lassie and Sally Greer. Five of the disc’s 13 tracks are either wholly or partly self-penned, and a further half-a-dozen are the creations of her fellow songsmiths (or, in the case of the two instrumental tracks, her contemporaries – bluegrasser Mark Schatz and homegrown Canadian tunesmiths Oliver Schroer and Brian Pickell).
There’s a melodious and thoroughly charming overall feel to the album, a sincerity and real joy in the music-making and a sense of relaxed accomplishment. Often very much in the McGarrigles mould, I thought, while Allison’s own singing often exhibits shades of Emmylou Harris or Alison Krauss. The vibrant bluegrass-country feel of opening track Bonnie And May is utterly irresistible, as is the sublime a cappella of closing number One More Day (one of three songs featuring backing vocals from The Lucky Harmony Sisters, aka Rosemary Phelan and Tannis Slimmon). Between these points, there are many gorgeous highlights, notably Craig Werth’s Where Oh Where My Rising Star (which features its author both in vocal duet with Allison and playing banjo), Gerry O’Beirne’s ballad The Isle Of Malachy (featuring Lori Gemmell on harp) and a delectable chuckling account of Bruce Cockburn’s Love Song. Elsewhere, Wooden Ships tells of a Montreal chapel with special significance for sailors, while Allison wrote Over The Ocean To Canada after a visit to the war brides exhibition at Halifax, NS.
Not only is the standard of songwriting on this CD first class, but so is the musicianship with which Allison surrounds herself. She enjoys exceptionally sympathetic contributions from – among others – long-term collaborator Ian Bell (guitar, banjo, concertinas), Andrew Collins (mandolin, fiddle), Shane Cook (fiddle) and Denis Rondeau (bass). I can sense that this truly lovely CD is going to become a regular fixture on my player over the coming months.
David Kidman, The Living Tradition
“Half My Heart is a master class in song writing from an exceptional story teller.”
Tracks such as the brutally sensitive album track Half My Heart, Lichtbob’s Lassie, Wooden Ships and the fantastic Over The Ocean to Canada all garner empathy towards plight and sympathy for the way sections of society were treated in search of a better life for themselves. Half My Heart is the stand out track in what is a very cool and excellent album; its sheer abundant honesty drags such dark stories out the cave and into the thoughts of the modern listener. It is simply addictive and forthright and with musicians such as Ian Bell, Andrew Collins, Shane Cook, Denis Rondeau and Tom Leighton giving all to the overall feel of despondent truth and unwavering sense of duty to stories that could be forgotten.
Half My Heart is a master class in song writing from an exceptional story teller.
Ian D. Hall, Liverpool Sound and Vision
A graceful and accomplished offering, which emphasizes just how much musical talent there is coming out of Canada right now.
Allison Lupton gives us a delightful 13-track album, her third full length release. Some beautifully emotional moments, light and shade too; contrasting gentle ballads with rambunctious Saturday night knees-up and whisky moments. The musicianship is exemplary. Heaps of Celtic influence, the album focusing on the musical traditions of Scotland and Ireland. Five of the songs composed/co-written by Allison, some from Mark Schatz, Oliver Schroer and Brian Pickell and two are of Scottish origin.
The album opens with the bluegrass/country flavoured Bonnie & May followed by the title track. Craig Werth’s Where Oh Where My Rising Star, features the composer on co-vocals and banjo. Bruce Cockburn’s Love Song is a highlight. Over The Ocean To Canada, penned by Allison tells about the war brides exhibition in HaIifax, Nova Scotia. The final track, the lovely a cappella One More Day, is one of three songs featuring backing vocals from The Lucky Harmony Sisters.
Allison’s band is composed of a stellar group of musicians, including veteran of the Canadian folk scene Ian Bell, bass player Denis Rondeau, Grand North American Fiddle Champion Shane Cook and CCBA’s Mandolin Player of the Year Andrew Collins.
Allison began her interest in music in the rural Ontario community, singing in the church choir where she learned about harmonies. She later joined the folk band Killiecrankie, regularly featured on Canadian national radio. In 2008, she was nominated in the Traditional Singer of the Year category by the Canadian Folk Music Awards.
HALF MY HEART is both traditional and contemporary, beautifully produced, utterly natural and relaxed. Allison’s voice has a mesmerizing, soothing quality to it -quite addictive. She’s a fine flautist too.
She’s likely to win our hearts with this one.
Simon Redley, Maverick Magazine
Canadian Allison Lupton is yet another in a long line of fine folk performers from that country. She has been nominated for Traditional Singer of the Year at the Canadian Folk Music Awards and her album Half My Heart features not only Allison’s beautiful clear singing voice and flute playing, but also some fantastic musicianship by a group of some thirteen talented players and backing singers.
The CD is a collection of traditional, self-penned and covers of others’ songs and centres on the Irish and Scottish tradition. There is a combination of styles, from the bluegrass of the opening track, ‘Bonnie and May’ through the beautiful title track, ‘Half My Heart’ and the more traditionally scored ‘Julie’s Waltz’, to the final track ‘One More Day’ which is a simply lovely a cappella song from Allison’s own pen. There is a special mention for Bruce Cockburn’s ‘Love Song’. The songs cover a wide range of themes, ‘a patchwork quilt of songs’ according to the CD’s sleeve. ‘Half My Heart’ is about the London Foundling Hospital and the practice by parents on giving their children up to leave a small piece of fabric to be used for identification if they were able to return for their child. ‘Sally Greer’ is a traditional song about a shipwreck of Irish immigrants to Canada in the nineteenth century and ‘Wooden Ships’ is inspired by a sailors’ chapel in Montreal.
This is a nicely packaged CD, which will find favour with any listener who appreciates fine singing and playing.
Mel Pitts, Shire Folk
“…lovely voice and a killer band…”
“A lovely voice and a killer band breathe new life into the trad tunes on the album, and instill a traditional grace in the newer pieces. The songs are imbued with the sheer joy the band had playing them, the voice speaking of sweet wistfulness and sweeter celebration.”
David Francey, Laker Music
“…a true Canadian sound.”
“Fly Like Swallows” unveils the group’s true musical identity. The album’s sound is a combination of Celtic and old-time flavours mixed with a hint of Ottawa Valley and French-Canadian fiddling – a true Canadian sound. The songs are wonderfully structured with flowing melodic arrangements that carry the words and stories with ease and grace. The instrumentals are great. Jigs, reels and waltzes offer a nice contrast to the album’s songs without swaying too far from home.”
Matt Carter, Penguin Eggs
“…sweet expressive voice…”
“Traditional music from Ireland and Scotland is the specialty of Ontario singer and flute/whistle player Allison Lupton, formerly of the band Killiecrankie. On My True Love, she applies her sweet, expressive voice to ballads like “Jock O’Hazeldean”, creatively reinforced with a jazzy acoustic bass, and simple, delicate arrangements of songs of lost love like “Bantry Girl’s lament” and “As I Roved Out”. Six instrumental sets demonstrate Lupton’s flute skills on fast and slow tunes accompanied by a diversity of acoustic ensembles. There’s also a beautiful version of Richard Thompson’s “Dimming of the Day” that uses piano and uilleann pipes to underline the song’s sad longing. “
Tom Nelligan, Dirty Linen