Out of the Mailbag Comes Songs and Stories: Ava Wildflower
by Éabha Mc Mahon
2021 13 Tracks 41 Minutes. Review by John O’Brien, Jr. @Jobjr
Éabha (AYE-vah Mac-MA-hon) began her singing career in 1998, when, at the age of nine, she was chosen by Veritas to record an album for Beo go Deo, a children’s book. She then began singing in sean nós, a traditional, less demonstrative, and unaccompanied style, taught by such singers as Moya Brennan, Máire Ní Choilm, Íde Mac Mathúna, and Séamus Mac Mathúna.
At the age of fifteen, Éabha won the Under18 All Ireland Oireachtais final. From age thirteen to seventeen, she was the reigning Leinster champion in the Irish music competition Fleadh Ceoil. From the ages of fourteen to eighteen, she was the Dublin champion in the Fairview Feis Ceoil five times.
Éabha joined Anúna in 2007, becoming the group’s youngest member at the age of sixteen. In 2008, she recorded the PBS Holiday Special, “Anúna: Christmas Memories”, released that year on DVD and CD.
Éabha joined Celtic Woman in July 2015, replacing Lisa Lambe in the ensemble, and recorded seven CDs as a member of Celtic Women. As 2019 ended, she left to pursue her solo career, and is off to a splendid start, with her just released solo debut, Wildflower.
Éabha continues the centuries old Irish tradition of storytelling through song, bringing her own modern contemporary style to the art and seamlessly blending English lyrics with her oft forgotten indigenous language that adds a poetic rhythm to her songwriting.
“I am making this album because it’s the most honest expression of who I am, what I stand for and my intentions for the world that we live in. I sing to heal, and it heals me too. It is the purest form of emotion that I have ever experienced, so I want that in my life every day… It is the greatest privilege to be able to make music, and something that I want to do for the rest of my life.
“It was like a breath of fresh air going back into studio after months of working from our homes. I have never been so thankful to once again feel that feeling you get in the studio. The slight feeling of nerves mixed with lots of excitement and the wonderful anticipation of how the songs will develop after singing them.
Most of the album was written in the west of Ireland. I am so thankful to have been living there for that creative time because it is the most inspiring and scenic place that I have ever lived. I walked the beaches every day for an hour and the sound of the waves crashing against the shore centered me in a way that I have not felt in years.
The cold sea air allowed me to access a mindful part of my soul which I hadn’t had time to tap into for a while. Now listening back to my songs, I realise that so many of the ideas were born on those beaches in Salthill and it will forever be a place full of magic.
“The album is greatly inspired by the sea, and the feeling I get in those moments after jumping in first thing in the morning. Each song represents my passion for the earth, equality, the Irish language and the importance of unity, family and friendship.”
- Rhythm of Earth ~ In Irish, Éabha means Life. How fitting, true to her core; grace, elegance and a powerful instrument in her vocals, of that ties to earth, and its joys. The warmth of both is evident from this very first song.
- Wildflowers ~ “a song that will forever remind me of the women in my family. Particularly my grandmother. I am so close to her and as a child she would show me dried flowers that were so delicately kept between two sheets of grease proof paper in an old book. They were so beautiful. She told me that she found them years after her mother had passed away. Her mother, my great grandmother would tell the story of the wildflowers and I loved hearing about how they ended up in this book.”
- Call My Name ~ Probably my favorite song on Wildflower, the rhythm and meaning are deeply connecting for me.
- Heartbeats – “this song was written during the lockdown. With so many news stories covering stories about inequality, discrimination and fear, it really upset me to see how people can be so cruel to one another.
I wanted to write a song that we can all relate to. No matter who you are, where you are from, what you believe in, what colour your skin is, who you love, who you identify as. No matter what you may believe is right of wrong, we are all just heartbeats. Know that no matter what you stand for, love is the only universal language. And I will forever stand for love and equality.”
- Seas Suas ~ “I wrote [this] when I was away touring. I missed home and my family and husband so much at the time. I wanted to write a love song to all of those who were at home and I wanted them to know that although they were physically far away, they were never far from my heart. I love this song because it really is who I am and my love for the Irish language and our tradition.”
- When We Dream ~ We dream of true loves, that visit us in the night, and linger into the light.
- In the Quiet ~ “A song of reflection. A moment of quiet and leave for anyone who has lost someone or something close to them. In a world that is so fast paced, I wanted to write lyrics that made a safe space to reminisce and remember all of the special moments that life offers us every day.”
- One More Day ~We must keep trying, fight one more day, for that is when we are closest to our goal.
- You Are Home ~ Be the Light, be the vision, look not to the past, Sweet freedom at last.
- Native Call ~The earth often speaks to us, sometimes symbolically, sometimes we just have to be patient, to listen to the whispers around us.
- Tell Me Now ~ Tell me now, Are you lonely? Tell you something, so am I. Around the world, love endures, even when we might not be in close proximity.
- Runaway ~ This is not a leaving from something, but rather of embracing the fear of things unknown, run away and do them, try something new. Do one thing that will scare you … It’s good for the soul.
- Loud ~ The damage to our earth is near a point of no return. Still, we are not doing enough. All of our land, it is drying out. Running away, why are we running away?
Guests: Gavin Murphy, piano and keyboards; Bill Shanley, Guitars; Noel Eccles, percussion; Liam Bradley, drums and percussion; John O’Brien, Whistle.
Wildflower is a musical journey to find peace, in the night, and when retrospect overtakes us in our quiet moments. Being drawn to the light, we sway with Éabha’s songs, lending ourselves to being open, and then being able to find the connections we need.
At our most basic, we are so similar, in the quest for life, connection, a bit of light that we all need, in trying times. Éabha is a songwriter who walks along with us, with stories and experiences we have all come through. Wildflower is a Top Shelf Selection, and highly recommended.
For more than this review and the Inner View, see Éabha’s appearance on iIrish Songs, Stories & Shenanigans Podcast27, available on OhioIANews.com or on iTunes. www.avaworldmusic.com Facebook and Twitter, and Patreon.