Reviewed by Paddy Hudspith
Chicago-based The Crossing, with their deftly played Celtic folk music, were regular contributors to the scene in the late '80s and '90s. But 'Baile (Home)' is their first album of new music since 'Standing Stones' back in 2002. Their longstanding links with Jesus People USA, and its label Grrr Records, suggest to the uninitiated an honesty, integrity and 'down-to-earthness' which is given appropriate musical expression in this collection. Traditional Scottish/Irish jigs rub shoulders with new compositions drawing their inspiration from sources far and wide, stories universal and personal. Every track throws something different at the listener. Thus "Roman Rule/The Otter's Holt" is a moving blues tale suggesting a back story for the thief on the cross to whom Jesus promised paradise, set to a lively yet somehow mournful jig whose cello backing grounds the piece in melancholy. This is followed by "For Help And Protection" with lyrics from Joyce Denham (A Child's Book Of Celtic Prayers), a gentle lullaby using harp, fiddle and acoustic guitar, Clannad-esque with its layered female vocal harmonies. Again, "Anam Cara/Columbanus/The Lads Of Laois" treats us to pair of whistles in harmony at its outset, mournful but extremely moving, before sharing lyrics adapted from "Boat Song" by the sixth century itinerant Irish monk Columbanus, a song of steadfast determination in pursuing Christ. Afterwards, "Requiem" adapts some words of Robert Louis Stevenson about contentedness at the end of life ("Here he lies where he longed to be") before the riotous "Johnny Boyle's Set (Johnny Boyle/Sliabh Russell/The Mug of Brown Ale)", and "Home/The Eagle's Whistle" introduces the theme of longing for our spiritual home, "An emigration song with a twist. . . for Christians". This is an engrossing album by a band whose experience and insight shine through as impressively as the music on offer.