Saturday, May 07, 2005

Songs of Zion

Crinna Hill – Worlds of Ice

It’s kind of exciting for me to do this next review. When my wife and I were in the early years of our marriage, The Roberts family (very young as they all were, and with two sets of twins) lived in our ward in West Jordan, Utah. The parents, John and Connie, became friends of ours. Connie has an infectious enthusiasm for life and a tenacity that gets things done. John is patient and artistic. The five kids at the time were very small, but energetic.

They moved south a ways, and though we kept in touch from time to time, we didn’t really see each other much. But their kids grew up, like kids tend to do. Along the way, they learned Irish dancing and picked up singing. They were actually quite active as a performing dance group, doing shows all over, including the 2002 Winter Olympics.

Out of that grew Crinna Hill, a complete family musical adventure. The five kids, Naomi, Arielle, Marshall, Austin, and Sophie are all on stage, singing and playing the instruments. John, the Dad, backs them up on the guitar, and writes the songs (a few of the songs on the CD are collaborations with Naomi and Arielle). Connie, the Mom, is the business end, co-producing the CD and managing the gigs.

“Worlds of Ice” is their freshman effort, and right off the bat, it struck me just how “right” it is for them. Let me clarify that: See, “Art” is always an extension of those that create it. While it’s often true that some singers let themselves be manipulated by their handlers and by the whims of the public, still some of their own personality comes through.

“Worlds” is a wonderful CD in that it really lets the personality of the artists shine through. The songs John has written are thoughtful, the songs are sung with an excitement and energy that only teenagers can have (because we old folks are too tired!).

While I’m talking about John’s writing, let me comment also that he’s managed to pull off the incredibly difficult task of writing for teen performers, to a teen audience, without condescending to either one. It’s a tough line to walk. “Walk on Water”, co-written with Naomi, is a great love song. Not a cheesy teeny-bop puppylove song, nor a overly physical, innuendo-laden grown-up love song (I hate it when I hear teenagers, or even kids, singing that way). “Don’t Walk Away” does the same thing about breakups. Great stuff.

There are a couple of songs that imply some more grown-up topics, but even those are handled very well. “First Day” would be a wonderful song to perform at a reception for a temple wedding. “My Soldier Boy” is about a mom raising kids while the dad is overseas fighting. Another thing I liked about that song, by the way, is how it shows the human cost of war, without getting all political. It says, “war is tough on people” but doesn’t attempt to argue about whether or not the war is justified.

The CD is not overtly religious, either, though a couple of songs make spiritual references. “Broken Sparrow” is all about the verse about how Heavenly Father knows when even a sparrow falls. “Be Still” is about feeling the Spirit, and “First Day” implies a divine blessing on the event.

It IS a freshman CD. And I have to say that it’s held back by the recording and the mix. That’s a shame, too, because the songs are great, and they perform them well. The arrangements were pretty consistent throughout the whole CD, too, so I’d like to hear a little more variety in tempos and instrumentation.

I love their singing, and I love their harmonies (which, I’ve been told, the kids work out themselves). I do wish the CD insert would have said which one was singing lead on which song. I can’t tell them apart on record, yet. They do all sing, though the boys only did lead on “California Dreaming”. And if you really want to hear how their vocals shine, don’t stop the CD player after “I Know You’re Gone” ends. Just let it roll.

You’ll also get to hear how much fun they have together.

"Worlds of Ice" is available at the Crinna Hill website

Mark Hansen

1 comment:

  1. Thank you Mark, on keeping us abreast the music that is out there. For me, as a parent, I don't always pay attention to what albums are being purchased and played. So far, we have had little to worry about, but your reviews always give me a heads up, and I try to buy a cd here and there, to add to the christmas stockings of my ever growing up teens. I really appreciate your imput. Thank you so much for your time.



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