Sounds like … the vocals and melodic sensibilities of The Beatles or The Redwalls with Irish instrumentation, recalling the songwriting of Keith Green or Sara Groves and the styles of Billy Joel, Big Daddy Weave, and Dave Matthews Band
At a glance … this is one of Ceili Rain's stronger efforts, thanks to the band's unique style and the strength of Bob Halligan Jr.'s challenging songcraft
A pity that Ceili Rain doesn't get more recognition for all they've offered over the last decade. Bob Halligan Jr. has the plaintive, tender vocal of John Lennon and the melodic sensibilities of Paul McCartney. Both Beatle-esque qualities match well with the band's love of Irish music, giving equal weight to violin, accordion, and whistle with guitars and rhythm. Now that they've added alto sax to the mix, Ceili Rain further demonstrates they're not confined to one sound, capable of jamming like Dave Matthews Band or early Big Daddy Weave.
What's sadly most overlooked is Halligan's way with words—as a songwriter, he's not unlike Sara Groves and Keith Green. But people seem to be taking more notice with the band's latest, Whatever Makes You Dance. The catalyst is "Kneeling," a simple ballad creating a stir on K-LOVE radio by suggesting prayer as the best position on war—though I wish there was more than repetition to the chorus, it deserves praise as a meaningful response to current events. Even bolder is "Die Trying," which draws the same conclusion while offering difficult perspectives from the sides involved in the war on terrorism.
Lest you think Halligan is focused on a single topic, he also offers playfully challenging songs about sanctimonious piety ("Joy-Robbers"), living love out loud ("Shush"), listening to God in prayer ("Shut Up and Pray"), and establishing loving parental authority that reflects our heavenly Father (cute-but-awkwardly titled "I'm Not Dude, I'm Dad"). "If God Was Chocolate" may seem silly in imagining what it'd be like to experience God through the forgotten sense of taste, but give it a chance to discover how smart it really is.
That's but a sampling of Halligan's strong songcraft, which can sometimes seem underdeveloped ("I Treasure You"), opaque ("Window in the Wall"), or simplistic (worshipful and catchy "Say Yes to You"). However, more often than not, Ceili Rain remains one of the more thoughtful and unique Christian bands around, seemingly on its way to earn more attention.
Copyright © Christian Music Today. Click for reprint information.