A Production of The Folk Life ( Inc. 1976)
John McLaughlin and Jamie Downs, Editors


CD Reviews: “Roots & Wings,”
(dba The Digital Folk Life. Org)

Rise, “Posing as Human” (

This is the second CD from the young Scottish band from the Isle of Bute, this time stripped to the central trio of Debbie Dawson (vocals), Gerry Geoghegan (guitars, vocals, bass, keyboards, bodhran, whistles, mandolin, banjo, bouzouki – plus songwriting), and Kris Marvell (drums, percussion, keyboards – plus email and artwork – you should see the medieval helmet with headphones which may become the band logo).

Rise first came to my attention something over a year ago, when Kris sent out copies of the band’s first CD, “Uncertain Wonders,” which I immediately started playing on “Roots & Wings,” my weekly radio show on WESS-FM. He followed up with a thank-you note – how courteous – and then actually asked for some advice. Even more startling, he took the advice! Rare one, this guy. So eventually the band got themselves over for a radio-station-interview tour of the East coast of the USA – Kris’ lifelong Mecca – they went from Boston to DC, I had them on-air at WESS, got them down to Otto Bost’s show on WDIY (Do It Yourself?) in Bethlehem, up the street from Godfrey Daniels, and in sum had a rerr terr wi’ some wee kids fae Rothesay (tho Kris is more like Chewbacca than a wee kid, but let that pass). Anyway, that’s my disclaimer – I know the band, the way you get to know people who’re really, really good at schmoozing, and more power to em – you’re gonna be in showbiz, you should know how to be friendly, sez I. Fiona Ritchie gets mentioned here as does Marilyn Rhea of Boston’s WMUB; Rise know how to say thanks in public. Good for them. In the somewhat strange little niche world of folk music, it’s a very much-needed skill, negotiating the bidniss.

Anyway, here you are: A 14-song outing, almost all of it written by Gerry, except Dick Gaughan’s “Both Sides the Tweed” – arguably pro-Union of the Parliaments - Rabbie Burns’ “Green Grow the Rashes-O,” sung as a Scottish folksong, as it should be, and Nanci Griffith’s “Love at the Five and Dime,” the last one in a pulsing, electric-guitar-and-percussion-driven arrangement that lets go the “ching” of the Woolworth’s elevator that’s been a central feature of every other arrangement of the song I’ve ever heard, and makes the song Debbie’s wistful own. Magic.

The band’s arrangements give prominence to Debbie’s light, near-ethereal delivery (Alison Krauss come to mind?) – cutting in places, when she’s chiding a material-self male who can’t measure up to the standards of his better, spiritual female counterpart (See “Don’t Stop the World,” “The Way Things Are,” and “Get Away,” where the lover who’s refused to talk about their problems wants the last word, going out the door, and doesn’t get it, in spades). “The Gallows,” a duet between Debbie and Gerry, sounds like an old neck-song ballad, except that it sings about torture in lines from the morning’s newspaper – “They have chained me and beat me and made me confess/To things that they know are not true” – as it moves along to a foreboding vision from medieval Scotland and the fate of William Wallace – “Now they’ll hang you and draw you and cut you in four/And spike your head over the gates/ Through the hatred and torture and the angry crowd’s roar/I will not drop my gaze from your face….” Freedom is still a noble thing. The title cut, which might seem as if it would be a light-hearted sci-fi ballad, in fact turns into a powerful examination of various monsters, returning again to the morning’s headlines (“Can you tell me what it takes/ To cut a man’s throat with a blade/ And then to let the whole world know/ By taping it on video….”

So in a curious sense, Rise is poised for crossover, into folk-pop, if it wants to go that way, with the very alt-country sound of “The Way Things Are,” an anti-consumer anthem with a nice bluegrass drive to it. , or the near-cheeky talking-past-one another of “Fading Fast” – she wants to babble on about New Agey religion, he’d like something a bit more fleshly, and if he doesn’t get it he’s out of there – while at the same thing its Scottish roots are very clear and holding fast. Gerry Geoghegan’s songwriting skills are prominent on this release, as are his studio-based multi-instrumentalist talents. Kris is an expert percussionist/keyboardist, backing up Debbie – a lead singer in any band – and Gerry, who harmonizes very well with her in a number of songs. Do I recommend the CD? Hey- I don’t review things I don’t like. But it would be good if you gave this a listen, in any case. If you miss them here, you may have to catch up with them in Nashville, next time thro.

(Review copyright 5/14/2004, John McLaughlin)