In my early teen years, I really didn't think much of folk music. There was some stuff by Bob Dylan that I enjoyed, but I hungered more for the extreme. It wasn't til I heard "Far Away Coast" by Dropkick Murphys, (and maybe post-Hammerheart Bathory) when I started to appreciate folk. By my early-mid 20's, that's when I was introduced to neo-folk, and got into Current 93, Sol Invictus, and Death In June. Other than having beautiful melodies, and a laidback atmosphere, what folk music also brings is great lyrics and storytelling. And these are what we can expect from Long Beach's Joy Shannon and the Beauty Marks. This past spring, Shannon and her bandmates put out their 7th studio album, Mo Anam Cara (which means "My Soulmate" in Irish-Celtic terms), and it's a wonderful journey into the Pagan/Celtic Culture. Both the light and the dark are represented in Mo Anam Cara, which gives each song a different experience.
"Winds of Hel" kicks off with Shannon's harp, which to me it's a big part of the Joy Shannon and the Beauty Marks identity. When looking up Hel, I did get a feeling that the lyrics could be about dying. If we let go, where would our souls be? Wondering around the World or would there be a place where our spirit will be in peace. On "Midwinter Ghost", you can hear Joy Shannon's voice getting into it. We hear a woman expressing her love and dedication ("I won't let go of your ghost") to that soulmate. And what that person means to her life ("you're my light when others gone out"). By the end, she ask if he'll accept the good and bad in her, as she is willing to the accept the good and bad about him. Then we got "Midsummer Witch Hunt", which is one of the most saddest stories. Of course if you've seen the music video for this, you pretty much know what it's about. Studying about witch hunts during the 1400's and mostly the 1700's, this one was very personal to me. Probably one of the best perspectives of a woman being accused of witchcraft by a establishment that has many faults and hypocrisy. Do they think their sins aren't as bad as the one's they accuse of being evil. The album ends with "Marbon: Airmid Bring Back The Dead". When hearing this song, it does bring a fear of losing the ones you care about, and the ones who you enjoy being around with. Being alone in a cold winter night. No one to share laughs and love with. You hope to have that moment, one more time. Or at least hope to meet up again, once the time has come.
Mo Anam Cara can be seen as a story about the love of your life. The one that you want to take care. Be around with and cherish every moment. The one who will listen to you, as you will also listen to them. And also a story about fear. Wondering if they love you as much as you love them. Would they accept you for who you are. And if they will be around forever or be taken away from you, and you'll be all alone in this World. When hearing Joy Shannon's voice, you just get that feeling that you'll be taken care of, and you don't have to be alone. The harp does bring in a angelic sound. You just want to close your eyes and let it guide you. As Joy's cello brings a more darker tone. Amelia Barron and Rachel Star Albright backing vocals also bring light to Mo Anam Cara. And the guitars by Daryl Hernandez bring in a doomy feel as Jon Zell's guitar is more in the lighter side on"Imbolc Invocation to Brighid" and "Ostara Blodeuwedd". Everything about Joy Shannon and the Beauty Marks feels so real. From the vocals to the way the instruments are played, and the lyrics. From the first track to the last, everything just flows nicely. If you're ever in a mood to listen to something mellow, I would totally give Mo Anam Cara a listen. It may feel odd that there would be a dark/pagan folk band from Long Beach, but once you dive deep into their music, you pretty much forget all about that. And when you feel like you have no one, just pop this in on your CD/mp3 player, and let Joy Shannon and the Beauty Marks make everything better
You can purchase Mo Anam Cara on bandcamp:
I rate this "5 Hitlers Punched in the Face"