Album Review of
Taking Flight

Written by Joe Ross
March 31, 2023 - 1:53pm EDT
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The 16 songs on Amelia Hogan’s Taking Flight cover a lot of ground from traditional Irish, Scottish, British and American to contemporary folk music. Her charmingly modest vocals and lilting, plainspoken lyrics are key ingredients in a most successful recipe for powerful Celtic-infused songs of profoundly earthy and warm-hearted sentiments. With a CD insert that includes all the lyrics, Taking Flight has wistful remembrances, contemplative moods, and sublime thoughts. Hogan’s stripped down, accessible arrangements call for a cadre of stellar instrumentalists to accompany her in varied settings. She weaves the various threads of her stories to the sweet scores of Richard Mandel (guitar, bouzouki, banjo), Ray Frank (guitar, banjo), Maureen Brennan (harp), David Brewer (low whistle, high whistle, bodhran) and Rebecca Richman (concertina, fiddle).

While several songs are clearly sung, in alluring fashion, to just guitar accompaniment, it’s also quite nice to hear the timbre, tones and colors of other instruments in other tracks. For example, harp appears in three tracks (“Manx Lullaby,” “The King of Ballyholley” and “Twa Corbies”), bouzouki colors “Cursed Be the Caller” and “Oran Eile Don Phrionnsa,” and banjo flavors “Dyin Day,” “Cornish Lads” and “The Great Big Roaming Ass / Sean Reid’s.” Hogan’s original title cut, a song that prays for gathering, connection, solidarity and hope, is sung a cappella by Amelia Hogan with Christa Burch, Marla Fibish and Ray Frank (the album’s co-producer). Besides traditional repertoire, other sources of the material are from the pens of contemporary songwriters Laurie Lewis, Lankum, David Francey, Anais Mitchell, and Jez Lowe.

Hogan transports her listeners out of time and place with haunting melodies and evocative storytelling. Spanning over an hour, Taking Flight is a cathartic and therapeutic endeavor. Her songs acknowledge grief, loss, heartache, hope, and ultimately a joy-filled conclusion with “Red Winged Blackbird.” With an avian theme predominant throughout the project, Hogan acknowledges the bird not only as a symbol of loss, grief and sorrow, but also as one of hope, healing and optimism. Music like Hogan’s helps us find beauty in the midst of hardship.  If you, like Hogan, are in need of solace, comfort and inspiration in a troubled world, Taking Flight will help you spread your wings and soar on the uplifting currents and air streams of life. I’m surprised she didn’t close the album with her sweet a cappella sentiment that “the struggles before us, are small when compared, to birds all together, taking flight til we’re there.” (Joe Ross, Roots Music Report)