CARA brought their own very identifiable brand of Irish/Celtic based music to The Queen’s Hall Edinburgh tonight as part of their Scottish tour to an audience that immediately connected with their performance and stayed connected with them throughout the whole show.
This was my first visit to experience CARA live on stage, and I have to admit that the name that drew me initially to the band was Edinburgh’s very own Kim Edgar. Over the past few years I have watched Kim Edgar perform a few times and her 2016 album “Stories Untold” still remains one of my favourite albums of that year. Kim is one of the best songwriters that Scotland has produced in many years with the gift of writing haunting lyrics and melodies that just stay in your head for a very long time. I was curious here to see what attracted Kim to CARA and how her own unique vocals and musical talents would fit into the wider group’s. The first question is now obvious – the depth of talent that individually and collectively add up to the group. The second question was also answered – CARA is an obvious musical home for Kim as musically their contrasts blend and shift into each other to create something new without losing individual identity. Kim’s talents as a singer/songwriter for me always deserve a far higher profile than home-grown audiences sometimes give her, so it is good to see that talent coming to the far wider audience base that CARA with their profile and tour schedules can offer. Kim has been performing with CARA now since 2013 and the only downside of this of course is that we get to see Kim performing in Scotland, and particularly Edinburgh, far less than we used to.
This review is of course about CARA as a band, and currently the full line up consists of original CARA founders Gudrun Walther (vocals, fiddle) and Jürgen Treyz (guitar) plus Hendrik Morgenbrodt (Irish pipes and whistles), Kim Edgar (piano and vocals) and Rolf Wagels (bodhrán). Rolf was not in the on stage line up tonight. I have to mention here that Hendrik Morgenbrodt is not only a player of the Irish pipes, he is also a maker of them, and we so much need today someone like Hendrik who is keeping these traditional skills alive and well.
Individually, the band members are serious talents in their own right, and although the band hail from Germany, the musical heritage of musicians like Gudrun Walther and Jürgen Treyz go a long way into explaining why in the 15 years since their formation CARA have become recognised internationally as one of the top Irish/Celtic music bands out there at the moment. CARA are also past Irish Music Award –Top Group. Another interesting fact to me about CARA is that they are a musical collective in the true sense of the old concept of one. They play together because they like playing together and to their audiences, and do everything within the band; there is no management or administrative hierarchy to CARA.
Gudrun Walther and Jürgen Treyz are gifted musicans and songwriters with a long musical heritage and output behind them already, but it interesting to hear how skilfully the blues and jazz based background of Jürgen fitted into the music tonight. CARA are a true international band though, and their music reflects music of many different cultural origins, and through their music we get to see the connectivity between Nordic, Celtic, American and European music in their performances through songs including “The Elfin Knight”, “Land of The Midnight Sun” and “Time To Be Worried”.
Musically, over two sets, CARA gave this audience exactly what they wanted - haunting lyrics and music that often took a twist to their traditional origins, classic instrumentals, and new songs from the band. Also nice to hear some of Kim Edgar’s own songs like “Twa Magicians” and “Anchor In The Sky” given the much wider soundscape that the band can offer while still, due to very good arrangements, sounding like they have always been part of the band’s set-list.
CARA are definitely on my “have to see again” list next time they come to Edinburgh.
Review by Tom King