The Storms Are On the Ocean might well have been named GrandMutter. A collection of Appalachian standards dressed in beautifully darned gowns, its spiritual siblings are Plant's Band of Joy, PJ's White Chalk and Gillian Welch's stark daguerreotypes. Here are courtly tunes, murder ballads, child ballads and death fugues all beautifully backlit by Kieran Kennedy's acoustic guitar, banjo and piano. These apocryphal airs often recall Dylan's definition of folksong: “Traditional music is based on hexagrams. It comes about from legends, Bibles, plagues, and it revolves around vegetables and death. All these songs about roses growing out of people's brains and lovers who are really geese and swans that turn into angels, about skulls and flowers and death and curses and nine times this and ten times that.”
Each song deals from the bottom of the deck, every line is freighted with its opposite meaning. Under pretty petticoats, the lover's vow 'Bury Me Under the Weeping Willow' wears garter-strapped to its thigh the loaded threat of suicide. 'O Molly Dear' is haunted by death premonitions that might be self fulfilling prophesies. There are lullabies that double as infanticide ballads ('Sleep Baby Sleep'), songs as simple and profound as Blake ('The Wandering Boy'), and wry riddles like 'The Mountaineer's Courtship', which contains half the information required to re-DNA Bonnie 'Prince' Billie after the bomb.
Always the listener is reminded that these mountain holler hymns were written as Irish and Scots morality tales, Elizabethan verse and Presbyterian psalmistry before the Puritans brought them to Plymouth Rock. The Joan of Arc acapella 'Standing On the Promises of God' smells of Salem witch trials, while 'To the Work' is a Shaker paean to the dignity of transcendence through holy toil. Here's your soundtrack to Lesy's Wisconsin Death Trip or Miller's The Crucible…………………. A beauty.