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Elizabeth Nicholson | Sink or Swim

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United States - Oregon

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Folk: Traditional Folk World: Celtic Moods: Type: Acoustic
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Sink or Swim

by Elizabeth Nicholson

Haunting vocals and lively Irish harp music, both traditional and original, that will give you the chills.
Genre: Folk: Traditional Folk
Release Date: 

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  Song Share Time Download
1. Black is the Color/Mystery Reel
8:10 $0.99
2. Seven Seas
4:44 $0.99
3. Tailchaser's Jig/The Red Nose
4:00 $0.99
4. Dearest Nancy
3:07 $0.99
5. House Carpenter/The Broken Pledge
5:39 $0.99
6. The Sandpiper
4:08 $0.99
7. John Badger
4:29 $0.99
8. Kitty O'Shea
5:05 $0.99
9. Fair Annie
8:50 $0.99
Downloads are available as MP3-320 files.


Album Notes
\"The recording deals with themes that are by and large tragic; unrequited loved, separation, death, madness and revenge. These are the types of song that I love the most. For one thing, many of them are very old, yet they are always relevant. To me they suggest that previous generations were capable of a frank understanding of the human condition, and that the type of suffering that one experiences crosses cultural and generational divides. I guess they make me feel a certain comforting empathy with my forbears.\" - EN

“A very powerful recording -- beautiful voice, nice harp playing...you might want to check it out....“ Rich Warren, “The Midnight Special” (WFMT, Chicago)

“Sink or Swim” is an album of traditional and tradition-inspired original music by Northwest harpist/singer Elizabeth Nicholson. In the short time since the recording’s release in the fall of 2006, it has garnered international airplay and widespread praise: The album has been featured on Fiona Ritchie’s “Thistlepod” (a bi-monthly offshoot of the popular NPR program the “Thistle and Shamrock”), which is devoted to outstanding new Celtic releases; it has been chosen as a “pick hit” on Rich Warren’s iconic folk music program “The Midnight Special;” and was named “Folk Album of the Month” by KUNI (Iowa Public Radio/NPR).
The album is a brooding collection of songs and tunes, which encompass elements of traditional Irish, Scottish, English, and American music. Arrangements vary in complexity; some are unadorned, such as the gentle harp air \"The Sandpiper,\" while others – such as Elizabeth’s bluesy rendition of the popular Irish ballad “Black is the Color” -- are elaborately layered. Some tracks fall squarely into the Celtic music category: For example, the “Tailchaser’s Jig” is reminiscent of the early recordings of the Chieftains, while the immigration song “John Badger” recalls the work of traditional singer and songwriter Kate Rusby. Other tracks, including the Appalachian ballad “The House Carpenter” and the mournful original song “Seven Seas,” reveal a distinctly American folk flavor. Elizabeth’s vocals have borne comparisons to Karan Casey (of Solas) and Triona Ni Dhomhnaill (of the Both Band), while her harp playing reveals the influence of Irish harp greats Derek Bell and Grainne Hambly, as well as her own teacher Liz Cifani. “Sink or Swim” also features some of the finest traditional musicians in the Northwest, including Rob Barrick (highland pipes, base, percussion); Jen Bernard (vocals); Jim Chapman (whistles, bouzouki); Brongaene Griffin (fiddle); Eddie Parente (fiddle, viola), Joe Root (accordion); and Bob Soper (vocals, mandola, fiddle, percussion).

Elizabeth Nicholson is a Portland, OR based performer with a background in both folk and classical harp (as well as voice, piano, and guitar), and a particular focus on Irish traditional music. A frequent club, ceili (Irish traditional dance), and festival performer, Elizabeth effectively disproves the notion that the Celtic harp is just a genteel parlor instrument. For more information, tour dates, or just to say hello, please visit Elizabeth\'s webpage at www.elizabethnicholson.com.



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Dirty Linen Magazine, June/July 2007

Moving over to the States for one more Debut disc, Elizabeth Nicholson is a singer and harpist from Portland, Oregon, whose Sink or Swim is an appealing collection of traditional and original songs and tunes. Her pleasant voice recalls bluegrass as much as misty mores, and her material spans the Atlantic from Irish songs such as "Black is the Color" to the Appalachia-via-Britain ballad "The House Carpenter." Her original harp tunes are like brilliant bits of light, which made it no surprise that she also works in music therapy. The set closes with a mesmerizing, nearly nine-minute version of the Scottish ballad "Fair Annie," which draws on Andrew Calhoun's recent retelling.

David Kidman, netrhythms.co.uk, October 2006

Elizabeth Nicholson - Sink Or Swim (Own Label)
Portland-based Elizabeth has a background in both folk and classical musics, and is an accomplished exponent of the Celtic Harp who also sings (beautifully); according to her website, she's also a teacher and a strong advocate for “the use of harp music to promote health and alleviate pain”. Certainly the latter features would seem to apply to this album, for its overall feel is restful yet stimulating. Here, Elizabeth performs six songs and three instrumentals. The latter comprise a slow air and a pair of jigs, all composed by Elizabeth herself but very much in the Celtic tradition, and a lively treatment of the traditional Kitty O'Shea (on which Elizabeth multitracks guitar and second harp parts). For the songs, Elizabeth draws on that same tradition for her versions of Black Is The Colour, House Carpenter and Dearest Nancy, while she uses Andrew Calhoun's expert version of the ballad of Fair Annie; the remainder are Elizabeth's own compositions. She gives the majority of the songs a broadly similar treatment, very attractive and melodious (and rather better than merely pleasant, I hasten to add!), and her singing is delicate and pure without being over-precious. Occasionally I can't help but notice a minor shortfall in dramatic contrast within Elizabeth's expressive mode, but she compensates more often than not and she also benefits from the duet vocals of Jen Bernard on two of the songs. As indeed she does from the supporting playing of Rob Barrick (electric bass and highland pipes), Bob Soper (fiddle, mandola etc), Joe Root (piano accordion), Jim Chapman (whistles, bouzouki) and Eddie Parente (electric violins), variously on six of the nine tracks. Fine though these musicians play, Elizabeth's solo unaccompanied singing of Dearest Nancy provides one of the disc's highlights, along with the deliciously appealing Appalachian-country-waltz “ode to absenteeism” of Seven Seas and the veritable mini-epic that is Fair Annie. Basically, anyone who enjoys Celtic-based music well played and sung with a degree of (though not over-much) relaxation, should appreciate Elizabeth's special interpretative qualities.

Joseph Urbinato, Grammy-winning concert bassoonist and recording

purity of voice, clarity and beauty of harp playing, impressive musical present
Ms.Nicholson's interpretation of traditional, Celtic, old English and original repertoire is a stunning achievement. Her harp playing reveals a sure and expressive touch. There are no jagged edges. All of which offers an ideal compliment to the sweet but unsentimental style of her individual voice.