- Jamie O’Brien, The Irish Edition, July 2012
-Sean Smith, Boston Irish Reporter, May 2012
“Cuan” is Irish for “harbor,” “haven” or “bay”—a place where land meets the sea. The music is unadorned, yet intensely compelling and energetic on its own, with only Colleen’s and Colm’s pure vocals and guitar arrangements (& a bit o’ bodhran) to carry the stories of journey and sea. Colleen’s voice carries each note and ornamentation with strength and intensity, regardless of modulation.
- Kathy Johnson, KSER, Everett, Washington
Musicians don’t come with much more history in the craft than singer Colleen Raney. She’s been singing for more than two decades, and has been immersed in America’s Celtic music and dance scene for three. Raised in Seattle, previously based in New York and now calling Portland, Oregon home, Raney has studied and performed Irish music in more places and for longer than most musicians do in the span of their entire careers. She, however, is just pushing hers into the spotlight.
Only in the last several years has Raney translated the tapestry of her upbringing into recordings. Her first album, 2008’s Linnet, showcases her aptitude for re-imagining classic Irish songs, as well as her own songwriting, which she manages to present as well-loved and firmly rooted in tradition. Linnet marked Raney’s first move separate from her family’s enormous cultural footprint in the Seattle Irish music scene, and established her and the band she assembled as touchstones on the Celtic music circuit in their own right.
Things have changed on her latest release, Lark, released in January 2011. Raney’s strong, lilting voice has grown more distinct, more playful; a physical manifestation of her musical move into more contemporary territory. The contributions of Northwest music scene staples Casey Neill (guitar) and Zak Borden (mandolin) have changed Raney’s live show into more focused, pop-folk affairs that draw on and exhibit the best of Irish musical tradition, but ultimately leave an impression of Raney as a versatile singer-songwriter, comfortable steeped in Irish folk standards or appealing to contemporary audiences.
The production reins on Lark are split between Raney and her longtime collaborator, flautist Hanz Araki, who was the sole producer of Linnet. Araki’s masterful flute and whistle work ground Lark in the Celtic tradition he and Colleen share, but Neill’s accessible acoustic guitar, in combination with Raney’s upbeat arrangements and confident, effervescent voice will appeal to listeners entirely unfamiliar with the genre.
Rarely is an artist as deeply entrenched in a musical niche as Colleen Raney has been able to present centuries-old music with an eye toward current and future listeners outside of the genre. By adapting and developing her voice, however, and by surrounding herself with a constantly-evolving ensemble of the best musicians the Northwest has to offer (Celtic-centric or otherwise), she manages to both credit her training and history, and stake claim as a serious presence in contemporary folk music. Hers is a Lark with which listeners will want to play along.
-Katie Presley, Bitch Magazine, January 2011
Colleen Raney first came to our attention with her stunning debut album, Linnet, a few years ago. But she’s been part of the Irish and Scottish musical communities of the Northwest for some time now, both as a singer, a band leader and with the Raney family, a well-known family of musicians and dancers. When it came time to strike out on her own, she tapped into the network of amazing Celtic and acoustic musicians in the Northwest (who’ll be joining her this Thursday), drawing guitarist Casey Neill, mandolinist Zak Borden, guitar/cittern player Colm MacCárthaigh, bassist Ezra Holbrook and drummer Matt Jerrell. Each of these musicians bring a solid instrumental base to her music, but it’s her gorgeous voice that’s been turning heads all around. Singing with a deep love for the tradition, and for the dark poetry of Celtic song, Colleen has been drawing new life from the old ballads and renewing our love for Celtic music.
Devon Leger, Hearth Music, January 2011
The dark and rainy Pacific Northwest continues to produce an endless stream of brilliant folk music, and it was on display everywere at the recent Northwest Folkife Festival. The seething mass of humanity that is NW Folkife was held recently in downtown Seattle, in the shadow of her famous landmark, the Space Needle. Folkies came out in droves to this event, from raucous tatooed crusties to polished professionals, picking and sawing and dancing and singing, an estimated quarter-million in all, over four days.
Singer Colleen Raney was one of the polished ones, mesmerizing the crowded plaza with her lilting songs of the Irish and Scottish traditions. In a hectic backstage environment, guitarist Casey Neill kindly passed along copies of her two albums. Both are absolutely lovely, as was her stage show: her singing angelic and her backing band culled from the royalty of the Portland Irish music scene. Recommended for all fans of traditional Celtic song!
Stuart Mason, Fiddlefreak, June 2011