Largely known as a fine American singer-songwriter and excellent mandolinist, Karen Mal on this recording indulges her love of songs largely gleaned from the Irish and English tradition. Her voice is perfectly suited to the delicate Irish-influenced vocal decorations she executes so beautifully on this recording.
All the songs in this collection concern love-finding love, losing love, happy and sad endings. What makes Karen's interpretations special is her committment to the reality of her characters, and a respect for the dignity of human passions. Karen's crystalline voice, perfectly complemented by the brilliantly tasteful and understated accompaniments of Gabriel Donohue takes you back to an older, simpler, and more beautiful place.
"Karen Mal is blessed with a seductive, crystalline voice that encompasses the beauty of Kate Rusby, Cathie Ryan and Iris Dement, yet is still uniquely her own" Ed Miller, KUT radio, Austin
"I am in awe of Karen's singing. Her voice is one of those rare gifts that make singing seem effortless." -- Slaid Cleaves, Rounder recording artist
Inspired renditions of traditional songs
The first track I heard off of Dark Eyed Sailor was "The Unquiet Grave", a traditional story of love, mourning and ghosts. Karen's original and haunting melody elevates the song to a level above any other version I've heard; I was hooked, and I knew I had to buy the album. I have not been disappointed - everything about this CD is excellent. Karen's voice is perfect for singing the music, and the songs she chose for the album are generally wonderful . The accompaniment, including some excellent bits by Cherish The Ladies flute and whistle maestra Joannie Madden, producer Gabriel Donahue, and fiddler Matt Mancuso (as well as mandolin and guitar by Karen herself) are tasteful and well integrated into the arrangements
Besides the aforementioned "The Unquiet Grave", my favorite tracks on the CD are the title track "Dark-Eyed Sailor" - a song in the tradition of long missing sailors returning and testing their true love's affections; "Matt Hyland" - one of the few songs I've heard where a daughter's wishes win out over a father's regarding marriage; Blow The Candles Out - a faster paced song about, shall we say, night visitation; and especially the wonderful "The Snows They Melt The Soonest" with its captivating melody and lyrics.
I hope that we hear more of Karen Mal in the future, and that she returns to these Celtic roots for another album. If you're looking for a solid CD of Irish, Scottish, English, and American folk music, Dark-Eyed Sailor is a fine choice that won't just sit on your shelf collecting dust - you'll want it in your CD player over and over again.
----- L. Barstow
Having spent much of my youth in English folk clubs, drinking flat beer and listening to rough-hewn, bearded characters (and that was just the women) singing traditional fol-de-rol and riddle-me-diggler songs, I have an in-built skepticism of American singers who tackle traditional music from the British Isles. Karen Mal has won me over, and I am in love.
She brings a lyricism, vulnerability and a gentle soulfulness which match the lyrics perfectly. One of the songs, Wildwood Flower, is actually American but fits in nicely and serves to remind us how the transplanted British tradition flourished amid the blue grass of the New World. Gabriel Donohue does a remarkable job of producing, mixing and mastering, in addition to providing most of the instrumental accompaniments which, by the way, are splendid.
Note that there are 10 songs on the album. Bangrolly Reel and The Last Rose are brief instrumental pieces.
Dusty Springfield once described the Folk music that she recorded early in her career as music for "people who liked to jump around a lot". This is Folk of a different ilk, romantic ballads for people who like to relax and listen and ponder, and perhaps occasionally dab away a tear.
OK, I admit it: I bought Karen Mal's "Mercury's Wings" in part because she looks a lot like an ex-girlfriend and because I'd read that she is a very good performer.
It was a good choice. Karen Mal is a diamond-in-the-rough. Her voice is pure and emotive, accompanying herself on guitar and mandolin and supported by other stellar musicians, and her selection of songs is excellent.
"Dark-Eyed Sailor" finds her interpreting 11 traditional songs in beautiful style. The disc has an Americana/Celtic feel remeniscent of Connie Dover.
This CD deserves every one of the 5 stars I've given it. Buy it ... you will not be disappointed! - Don Richards
I bought this album for my husband after we heard Karen on Pandora, and we were not disappointed. It's now his favorite album, and that's fine with me because I love listening to it, too. The songs are traditional but not the usual bunch everyone sings. But it's Karen's voice that will grab you and won't let go. How can a voice be so straightforward and seemingly unadorned and yet so powerful you feel as though the Sirens are calling? Unlike most albums, there is not a single bad or even mediocre song in this collection. But the stand-out is "I Live Not Where I Love." I was very surprised to learn it is a very old song because of its unusual lyrics.
My only complaint is there are not enough Karen Mal albums. Please buy this album so she will make more recordings! If you like traditional music you will love this album, and I predict you will fall in love with Karen's voice.
Beautiful music for relaxing with a cappucino, driving in the car, reading a book - just having around the house. Her voice is beautiful and the musicians are extremely talented. The songs are blend of Celtic and folk that makes a nice combination. Great CD! A new favorite of mine.
This is one very fine album!
Karen is blessed with that most rare of musical gifts, a voice that is rich with character AND beauty! When she sings, Karen Mal gives you a glimpse of her inner most, gentle spirit while she pays homage to these lovely, long loved songs. Simply and beautifully arranged, joined by Joanie Madden (Cherish the Ladies) on irish flue and whistles and accompanied by Gabriel Donohue, Karen's choice of songs and her skills as a singer and player shine all through this album. This is one very fine album!
joe in southern ohio
A soul-stirring journey into a celtic celestial world
karen mal's voice delivers heart-rendering beauty, passion and color in this outstanding collection of wistful tunes . . . just-right production and nice musicianship sails us nicely into her world