Reprinted from The
CD REVIEW: Victoria Parks "Wild English Rose"
By Stacey Board - 11/20/03
- 08:13 PM EST
This CD sounds like it's full of
traditional tunes, but actually only three of the 13 tunes are
traditional. The other 10 are Parks' original compositions. There
is straightforward storytelling here, with information in the
liner notes that makes each song even richer once you've read
more of the back story.
"Wild English Rose" definitely
has a traditional folk sound all throughout in the writing and
arrangement. There are a wide variety of instruments, including
sitar, keyboards, bodhran, violin, highland pipes, cello, mandolin
and others. The stories are often true stories and are in the
oral tradition of passing along a story in song. Anyone who likes
traditional English and Irish folk music will find very much
to enjoy here.
Parks' voice is high, fine and lovely
and it is well suited to her writing. She assembled many fine
players to round out the sound. "Wild English Rose"
is a pleasing collection of traditional and traditionally influenced
songs, well written and performed throughout.
reprinted from the Fall 2003 issue of Sing Out! Magazine
Wild English Rose
Wild Mane 40501
When I first listened
to Wild English Rose I figured Parks had found some old ballads
in a trunk in Massachusetts and brought the songs to life. We
hear about America's past of bootlegging, sheep farming, immigration
and shipbuilding, but only "Caroline of Edinboro Town"
and the musical tags "Cliffs of Moher" and "A
Cube of Sugar" are not penned by Parks.
It takes more than words
like tarry, hither, elixer or sacred oath, to contribute to this
feeling of discovered tracks rather than originals. Parks has
succeeded in packaging ideas, words and melody lines to render
a presentation that suggests the times of which she sings. Her
wavering soprano slides from a traditional delivery of a catchy,
rousing chorus to songs touching on operatic, and always with
Liner notes do credit
finding letters from a distant Scottish relative for "Dear
Sister." The song is based on the story of leaving Scotland
and surviving a trip to America and the Revolutionary war as
witnessed in Richmond, Maine. "Banks of the Kennebec: also
involves the Maine coast and displays an appreciation of hard
word amid loss and gain. Parks's historical settings capture
the hardships of these lives so perfectly that one can picture
the songs' choruses being sung ages ago to the rhythm of swinging
Beyond historical settings,
there are four seasonal anthems: "Song for Ostara"
(April), "Song for Beltaine" (May),"Song for Samhain"
(October) and "Song for Yule." Appropriate musical
choices of pennywhistle, piano and hammered dulcimer adds to
the pagan sensualities. She dedicates this release to victims
of persecution, be it religious or political: I find this fitting
as the CD bursts with the freedom for both -AP
(This review is published
in Kevin's Celtic and Folk Music CD Review)
written by Dai Woosnam,
Just when I begin to despair at the decision of so many contemporary
artistes to continue to write their own songs when they patently
have no great aptitude in the songwriting department, along comes
this album from a lady with a clear talent to draw this listener
into her songs. And what's more, engage him fully whilst he was
there, and spit him out the other end wanting more.
Victoria Parks is based in Columbus, Ohio. This is her second
album. Her first was released in 1995, and the long 8 year gestation
period before this 2003 release, tells me that it was less a
case of "writer's block" but more"finely honing
her skills". I was sublimely unaware of her 1995 release,
but I would be fascinated to see what development there has been
in her writing between the two. If her first album was HALF as
good as this, then it will still be worth digging out.
Most of the songs here are self-penned, and range from ballads
recalling historical events to songs that celebrate ancient Celtic
holidays. There is throughout a constant sense of the links between
North America and the British Isles: links that are historical,
musical and cultural.
The voice is probably more that of a mezzo-soprano, for she is
not altogether certain in the upper register. And there is a
bit of wobble: an unintentional vibrato. But, guess what? To
hell with the rulebook: to my ear she seems a splendid singer.
Her effortless lower register really gives me a FRISSON of excitement
on occasions, but what REALLY stirs me is the intelligent way
you can hear her emphasising key words.
She is surrounded by a dizzying number of talented musicians
playing all the usual folk instruments plus one or two
that aren't, like the electric sitar! and playing them
rather well. It was absolutely no hardship for me to play this
album my customary three times before writing this review.
As to the songs, it is fair to say that I was less enamoured
of the Celtic holidays/New Age stuff, than I was of her ballads
recalling past family/historical events. Her opener is a bobby-dazzler
of a number called "Brandy From The Cherry", relating
how her dad born in the Prohibition years, was saved in infancy
from death-through-fever by small amounts of illegal cherry brandy.
Quite why I found this song so affecting, I am not sure: it is
a powerful opener in that it tells an unusual story with words
that pay their rent in every line, and has a driving melody and
attractive hook to boot. But that in itself doesn't explain why
to me it is the best song on the CD: I think in my case, the
fact that for some years I travelled the length and breadth of
Britain selling a cherry wine (Kirsberry isn't a brandy, I know)
may have had something to do with it.
Hot on its heels is a fine song called "The Ballad of Uncle
Davey". It is the best song on the dangers of coal-mining
I've encountered, since first hearing the great Vin Garbutt sing
"If I Had A Son" some 11 years ago. I wonder though
if there wasn't something more here, and then the penny dropped.
My affection for the song was based in part on my losing my coal-miner
dad to "black lung" when I was just ten years old.
And talking of loss: there is a song here called "Beautiful
Hands". It made me think of that Jackson Browne song "For
A Dancer". Raw honest confrontation with the aching void
that loss brings. That I could even bracket it with that great
searing song, well, it is praise indeed.
Buy this album. You won't be wasting your money.
to Kevin's Celtic & Folk Music CD Review website:
Reprinted with permission from The
Greenman Review by Reviewer Judith Gennett
©2003 October, 2003 The Green Man Review
Victoria Parks, Wild English Rose
(Wild Mane, 2003)
Victoria Parks is a singer and songwriter
from Ohio who writes from the English-Celtic traditions, transported
to America. On Wild English Rose, her second album, many
of the tracks are based on stories from her family history, but
there are other topics that may push the genre into traditional
or contemporary folk.
The historical songs are the most interesting. What an inspiration
for genealogists! My favorite is "Dear Sister," based
on letters sent to Scotland in the late 18th century by her emigrant
5th great grandmother. The verses describe the life Sarah Parks
was now leading in America and her reluctance to return, and
they do sound like messages from old letters. "Banks Of
The Kennebec" is a less personal male view of the history
of the Parks family in Maine. "Brandy From The Cherry"
is the story about a childhood friendship, bootlegging, and good
fortune around West Lafayette, Indiana during the early 20th
century. (Good to see she's an ethnic Hoosier, too!) "Uncle
Dave" is about Uncle Dave the Collier from Scotland. He
was laying with one foot in the grave without a pension, so his
pals hauled him down in the pit for the last 90 days. Then they
dragged his scarred and broken body out to show a high class
opponent of pensions for miners. I bet that was a shock for her!
These songs...but especially this last one...are really well
devised lyrically and tunefully.
Also included are a quatro of seasonal "Songs For"
(for "Ostara," "Beltaine," "Yule,"
and "Samhain.") These pieces are written and accompanied
in adequately traditional Anglo-Celtic form, but with that characteristically
anachronistic RenFest ambience. "Daphne, Daisies & Daffodils"
is an alliterative contemporary song about Diane's Divorce. The
flowers are cute; the backing strings are maudlin. "Caroline
of Edinboro Town" is a nice traditional song paired with
nicely simple guitar. "We are not Alone" is an anomaly...a
good contemporary song "borrowed" from Lucy Pringle;
it is particularly meaningful because the album was released
near the time of the Iraqi invasion.
Parks has an interesting voice, from the same tonal category
as Jean Ritchie. I like it because it's melodic, strong and authentic...and
certainly not wispy, cute, or vampish! It is a good voice for
history. Her catchy melodies are genuinely "folky"
and blend well with the lyrics. The arrangements are mostly acoustic
and fairly standard, with guitar and mandolin and sometimes flute
or even bagpipes...arrangements to support the Parks voice rather
than to breathe on their own. Some have piano or electronic keyboards;
I know I sound like a broken CD, but what's the point of mushing
up a historic song with swishy keyboards or "Bridge Over
Troubled Water" piano? Imagine a rustic log cabin with a
90 inch TV screen!
Recommended especially for Renaissance-Pagan-Celtic Festival
enthusiasts and genealogists, but "folk music" listeners
will like the historical songs, and perhaps the Ditty Describing
Reprinted from Victory
Music Review, November 2003 by reviewer Betsy Wellings
Victoria Parks: Wild English Rose
Wild English Rose showcases
Victoria Parks' clear and resonant singing voice and her spirited,
well crafted songs. The instrumentation is largely of Celtic
influence, and you think you are listening to a collection of
centuries-old folk songs until you realize that Parks herself
has written all but one. Parks recounts her family history, commemorates
ancient Celtic holidays, and shares stories of herself, gently
pulling the listener in to her world. I was particularly struck
by "Beautiful Hands," a tribute to a loved one who's
passed on, and "Dear Sister," a song based on letters
written by her great (x5) grandmother to her sister in the 1700's.
In Parks' own words, her music is spindled with fairy dust and
flowers, and indeed, it has an undeniable magic to it, a warm-fuzzines
tempered with hearty, bold, lyrical storytelling. In places it
is a bit too flowery for my taste, but on the whole Wild English
Rose is an excellent musical creation, worthy of repeated listenings.
Reprinted from Rambles online
review by Wil Owen
Wild English Rose is Victoria Parks' second release after an
eight-year hiatus from her prior release, Sure Feels Like
Home. On her new CD, the music has a distinct Celtic influence.
Hailing from Columbus, Ohio, Victoria's vocals sound predominantly
midwestern but with an occassional English slant.
At first listen, Victoria's voice was a little piercing to my
ears. The sound is quite distinct. However, she quickly won me
over, persuading me that she has a very pretty voice. In many
of the songs she harmonizes with herself, and these moments are
truly special. Instrumentally, Victoria is backed by fiddle,
mandolin, guitar, hammered dulcimer, piano, tin whistle, bodhran
and Highland bagpipe.
The first track, "Brandy from the Cherry," is a true
story about the curative powers of a liquor produced in the years
of Prohibition. Victoria's grandfather was friends with a bootlegger
whose moonshine saved his son from probable death due to pneumonia
and diptheria. Does this prove that certain types of alcohol
are good for you?
Most of the 13 tracks are Parks originals. The only exceptions
are "Cliffs of Moher" (a traditional Irish jig; the
second half of track 4), "A Cube of Sugar" (also a
traditional Irish jig; the second half of track 9) and "Caroline
of Edinboro Town." This last song is interesting in that
Victoria found it in a family heirloom that dated back to the
There is only one track I am not partial to. Track 9 starts out
with "Song for Yule." The chorus is what turns me off
most. Hearing Victoria and guest vocalist Ron Price sing "Halloo,
Hallay, Halloo Hallay" is grating to my ears. The track
does redeem itself when it switches to "A Cube of Sugar"
but this jig is awfully short.
Victoria Parks has a nice CD with Wild English Rose. She
is a strong songwriter and better than average singer. Considering
she produced the CD on her own label -- Wild Mane Music -- I
am quite impressed with the quality. Despite one so-so track,
I feel Victoria has a winner here.
written by Wil Owen
published 27 September 2003
From Folk and Roots,
London, England, August 2003
Victoria Parks - "Wild
Victoria Parks is a Cleveland based singer-songwriter here releasing
her second full length album. The first "Sure Feels Like
Home" released in 95 was a mixture of folk, folk rock and
a sampling of "Celtic" influences. On this second release
Parks has travelled further down the 'Celtic' road mixing those
influences together with tales from her own family history, and
esoteric influences (neo-pagan or slightly less accurate "new
age" if you prefer).
All the tracks on the CD, with the exception of "Caroline
of Edinburgh Town", are self penned by Parks and as mentioned
above the contents of the songs range from celebrating celtic
esoteric traditions, storys from her family put into ballad form
and a number of other songs.
Aside from Park's vocals she is accompanied by a wide range of
musicians playing among their number Mandolins, fiddle, scottish
pipes, fiddle, guitar whistle and considerably more which embelish
Parks song writing and singing cover a range of topics often
covering aspects of her family's history written from the view
of the very participants she sings about. These songs range in
topic from the tale of her Grandfather Morris who befriended
local bootleggers as a boy, a friendship that was to play an
important role in events later in his life, "Dear Sister"
which is a reflection on the journey (physical and otherwise)
of those who left the British Isles for a new life in America,
to the tale of her ancestors who originally left these shores
and the anguishes they endured during the process of resettling.
As mentioned above the sole track on the album that is not self
penned is "Caroline of Edinbugh Town", a traditional
British ballad that made its way across the Atlantic, however
the style of this song fits in well with Parks own style of balladry.
The remaining songs on this release are celebrations of celtic
festivals and spiritual traditions such as Samhain and Beltaine.
As a vocalist presents her ballads combining both a firm voice
with a sensitivity whilst clearly identifying with the subjects
at hand, personally however I found the 'historical' tales or
stories derived from her family background to be the strongest
on the album. That said the thirteen tracks on the album offer
a fine and varied journey through Parks songwriting and personal
Wild English Rose
Wild Mane Music, Columbus, Ohio
I heard the songs on
this CD out of sequence: Victoria performed "Song to Ostara"
live at a coffeehouse in my hometown of Columbus, Ohio a few
weeks before the Vernal Equinox. I went up to her and said, "move
over, Loreena McKennitt!" Victoria laughed and suggested
that I listen to the whole CD before making such sweeping judgments.
So I did, and now my judgment is, "Move over, Loreena McKennitt!"
The cover notes to this
CD acknowledge the inspiration of Victoria's ancestors, and that
inspiration is clear. Though only four of the 13 selections on
this album are explicitly "Pagan"--songs for Samhain,
Yule, Ostara, and Beltaine--a Pagan sensibility infuses the entire
album, with striking examples of still-very-vibrant family folklore
in "Brandy from the Cherry," "Dear Sister,"
and "Banks of the Kennebec," especially.
Victoria is renowned
as a storyteller among those who know her music well, and this
album is clearly the work of an experienced and comfortable yarn-spinner,
with fascinating tales and beguiling turns of phrase.
I have to say, though,
that the musicality of this album is what impresses me most.
The vocals are lovely--powerful and controlled with a maturity
that hardships of recent years have brought to bear
on the artist. This album is proof to me that adversity builds
is lush without being in any way overproduced (a common weakness
of recordings by folkies who, used to simplicity, tend to go
overboard with an embarrassment of riches), and the whole
thing is balanced and consummately pleasant. Though there are
stories aplenty to be found on this recording, I usually find
myself just losing myself in it, transported by the sound.
"Song for Ostara"
remains my favorite cut on this album, though it's hard to pick
a favorite. It's eminently singable, at once lilting and strong,
as Spring so often is. I think that the "Pagan" songs
here are, in general, a bit complex for ritual use, but they
are instructive as well as entertaining, among the best out there
for educating oneself in the philosophies of the Old Religion
for private enjoyment.
I suspect that Ms. McKennit
would be pleased to scoot over and be joined by Ms. Parks.
©2003 Khrysso Heart
Director of Liturgical Music Studies,
Pagan Institute, Inc.
in "Every Muse News & Reviews," June 2003
If you are lucky enough to have Victoria's debut album, "Sure
Feels Like Home," she needs no introduction. If not, I hope
you'll take this opportunity to discover her. Victoria is a master
storyteller and songwriter with a beautiful, powerful voice.
On "Wild English Rose," half of the album is devoted
to exploring her family's rich Celtic history in songs that are
as vivid, valid and gripping as any material you will find on
the immigrant experience. The other half of the album is also
traditionally based, with some of the songs revolving around
ancient celebrations, such as winter solstice, Samhain (Halloween),
and Beltaine (May Day). There's even a song about crop circles.
All songs on the album are nicely accompanied by traditional
Do yourself a favor.
Order "Wild English Rose"! I guarantee that many of
you will be visiting this album on a regular basis for many years
to come. This is a voice that deserves to be heard!
"Visiting The Folks"
Northeast Ohio's best folk mix on Sunday nights from 9 PM to
John Carroll University, University Heights, OH
Wild Mane Music Victoria Parks : Wild English
Although all songs but one are written
by Victoria, they're all drenched in the English / Irish folk
style. On the romantic songs (-most of it is very romantic, some
part of them also somewhat nostalgic-) she succeeds beautifully,
singing like a blossoming rose, with nice arrangements added
(with "Dear Sister" as my favourite example of this).
Only "Brandy from the Cherry" and near the end "Ballad
of Uncle Davey" are a bit more like English countryside
folk, as songs performed to encourage the public to sing along.
There's a friendly (healthy / well balanced portion of) naivety
and a purity involved, a good and light heartedness and friendliness.
"Song for Ostara" has is a more elegant (neo-flowerpower)
gentleness. Some other songs are as if from a storyteller melodically
even more in the old English folk style (like in "Banks
of Kennybec"). I hind the whole CD, but for me being non
English it will take various listens to unfold. Several of those
stories, from various songs are explained in the booklet. Almost
every song has this very English styled melodic part, and they're
always very nicely arranged. "Song for Beltaine" I
want to mention especially for its arrangements with fine violin
and bodhran, acoustic guitars and flute arrangements with reels
all very well interwoven. "Beautiful Hands" is a romantic
song that stands on its own in style, with piano and violin arrangements.
"Wild English Rose" can be seen as one of the main
founding expressions. Here this is performed with all fragility
coming deep from her heart, loving, caring and sharing. The fragility
of such expressions is more clear on "We are not alone",
when the arrangements are more sparse and the singing much more
slowly evolving. On "Song for Shamhain" the nostalgia
overwhelms. It has nice choir (or harmonic voice) arrangements.
This song could have been an even a better closer with even more
of such arrangements, maybe even with a full choir. The listening
experience had the effect on me that I just wished to hear angels
sing this closer with gratefulness. This release might not appeal
to lovers of "progressive music". But for those willing
to go to the heart of (common) man, they can find here deep human
expressions from a 'Lady' with a fine arranged and solidly structured
concept. The enjoyable voice of Victoria has an ability to express
in a varied way. I believe she has succeeded in performing and
arranging her concept just perfectly.
©2003 Gerald Van Waes
Psyche van het Folk