Root, Heart, And Crown

Kristin Sweetland

Arbora Vita Records, 2002

REVIEW BY: Duke Egbert


Reminiscent of the work of Loreena McKennitt, Ontario-born Kristin Sweetland provides extensive liner notes on her debut, Root, Heart, and Crown, explaining the though process behind each song. That, however, is where the similarity ends; while McKennitt is shadow and mist and ephemera, Sweetland's work is more reminiscent of sunlight, open grassland, and substance. She is astonishingly talented; her guitar playing is crystalline and crisp, her songwriting complex and textured, and her voice expressive, alternately wry and poignant. my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250 Root, Heart, and Crown is a truly impressive debut.

(Hey, O Ye DV Faithful, don't you love it when you get my opinion out of the way in the first paragraph?)

The inspiration for Sweetland's songs are legion and wildly varied. The opening track, "O Quanta Qualia", is a reworking of a hymn of 15th century French scholar Peter Abelard, and the following song, "The Abbess", is inspired by the love songs shared between Abelard and his long-time love, Heloise. "Battle Hymn" is her tribute inspired by a visit to the American Civil War battlefield at Manassas, Virginia. "Hermetica" is an instrumental whose spark was, of all things, alchemy and the works attributed to the Greek god Hermes. In short, this is lightyears beyond most pop music in terms of its subject matter; Root, Heart, and Crown makes you think, putting you through a mental workout while simultaneously charming you with brilliant guitar work and stellar performances.

For a small-label CD, the production and engineering are excellent. The mix is perfect, focusing primarily on the chime and steel of Sweetland's guitar and the crisp, light percussion. This plays to Sweetland's strengths, especially on instrumentals like "Above Hotevilla", where there is nothing but the perfection of the guitar.

Other tracks worthy of note: "Fall Down The Ground," Sweetland's wrenching love song to Vancouver Island, with the wistful and heartbreaking fiddle work of Anne Lindsay; "O Leander," a clever turn on the stereotypical 'road song' where touring and Greek myth become intertwined; and the driving, chilling "Creeping Jenny," where a traditional ghost story is held up as a mirror in which we see our own desires and hearts reflected.

Kristin Sweetland is, simply put, astonishing. Mature, intelligent, clever, she has the poise of artists with fifteen and twenty CDs under their belt on Root, Heart, and Crown. If this is the root, I look forward to seeing the flower; I suspect it'll be something special.

Rating: A

User Rating: Not Yet Rated



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