The Hard And The Easy

Great Big Sea

Zoe Records, 2005

REVIEW BY: Duke Egbert


At some point this summer, I was drinking around a campfire. (I know, you're all shocked. I'm sure my sterling reputation won't stand the strain.) At any rate, the people I was drinking with were a motley collection of Celtic musicians, performers, and general all-purpose opinionated artist folks. I recall getting into an interesting discussion on the direction Great Big Sea had gone over their last two or three CDs. Dave, the guy I was talking with, thought that they'd really lost their roots on the last three CDs; I, as regular readers of the DV know, my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250 really liked the last few CDs. We picked this apart for a while, then moved on to other earthshattering topics (at least they seemed earthshattering after a few mugs of Gluhwein).

I thought of Dave when I heard the new CD by Great Big Sea, The Hard And The Easy. I'll bet Dave really likes this CD. I don't think it's so bad myself.

The Hard And The Easy is GBS returning to their roots, a CD of traditional Newfoundland music mostly culled from the collection of Newfie musicologists Gerald S. Doyle and Kenneth Peacock. It's completely acoustic, with several guest musicians filling out the house party sound. The songs are a varied selection of Newfoundland's musical traditions, each explained in great detail in the exhaustive liner notes. The production and engineering are gorgeous, clean, and clear; on tracks like "The River Driver" the harmonies are right in your face, bright and breathtaking. Musicianship, as always, is excellent; most of the CD is dedicated to the vocal sound, but there are some moments that left me in awe at the skill involved.

The songs are, as with most traditional CDs, a mixed bag. While some of them didn't grab me as intensely as others (I admit to not being overwhelmed by "Come And I Will Sing You" and "Harbour Lecou") all of them are performed with skill and enthusiasm, and most of the CD is just plain fun. I challenge you -- no, I defy you -- to not at least smile at "The Mermaid" and "French Shore." "Captain Kidd," a traditional ballad about the great and dread pirate, is sung with fervor and more than a bit of defiance. "Old Polina" made me want to get up and dance, and that's quite a trick for me. "Concerning Charlie Horse" is a driving, thumping song about, of all things, a horse who falls through the ice, and it's still worth a reel or two.

In short, The Hard And The Easy is a danceable, enjoyable, and loving piece of traditional music. Yes, it may not all be to your taste. But I'll bet Dave likes it, and I think I do too.

Rating: B+

User Rating: Not Yet Rated



© 2005 Duke Egbert and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Zoe Records, and is used for informational purposes only.