According to the band's Web site, "Ceili" (pronounced KAY-lee) is a Gaelic word for "a party with live music and dancing," and "Rain" represents the good things showered down on us from the heavens above. It's an appropriate name, because Erasers On Pencils is a party for your ears and a blessing from above.
Ceili Rain is an undeniably Irish band, but it's not purely Irish. They're like The Beatles with a Celtic influence, with maybe a bit of Grateful Dead thrown in. There are many Celtic bands out there working hard to remain faithful to the sound and traditions of their heritage. But Ceili Rain offers a nice twist—rather than a Celtic band trying to rock, they're a rock band with a Celtic flavor. They capture this blend brilliantly thanks to some classic-pop/rock savvy and smart songwriting. The band's frontman, Bob Halligan Jr., has written a lot of well-known songs for artists such as Eli, Bob Carlisle, Rebecca St. James,, Cher, Judas Priest, and Michael Bolton. His songwriting is instantly catchy with thought-provoking lyrics. He's got to be one of Christian music's best-kept secrets. And the musicianship! Solid all the way around. There are numerous instruments—including drums, accordian, guitars, bass, fiddles, and bagpipes—and instrumentalists, and it's difficult to single out any one because they're all so good.
Bob is a great lead vocalist, often reminding me of John Lennon—especially on the song "Long For You," which makes a simple but effective case for the existence of God. "Junkyard" is a passionate rocker about shunning the temptations and ugly things of this world. It, too, shows a strong Lennon influence. The title track is actually a Latin number (yes, Latin), and it provides a nice illustration about forgiveness. "God Done Good," a song about God's faithful answers to prayers, is a great rocker flavored with Highland pipes, flutes, fiddles and a little bit of Rebecca St. James near the end. For straight-up Irish music, there's "Jigorous" and "Tween the Jigs & the Reels." And you can guess what kind of music is featured in "Life Is a Polka." Clearly, this is a very diverse band that knows how to have fun while remaining thought provoking and spiritual.
We need more Christian artists like this, creating refreshing and original Christian music without resorting cliched lyrics or the latest musical trends. Not all the songs are "distinctly Christian," but that's part of the charm. It is, after all, possible to tell a story and express a Christian truth without even mentioning Jesus or God directly. Some might call such stories parables. If I'd received this album before the end of last year, I would have included it on my year-end Best Of list. I love this album and hope you'll seek it out.
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