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Victoria Parks
Wild English Rose
Wild Mane 40501

When I first listened to Wild English Rose I figured Parks had found some old ballads in a trunk in Massachusetts and brought the songs to life. We hear about America's past of bootlegging, sheep farming, immigration and shipbuilding, but only "Caroline of Edinboro Town" and the musical tags "Cliffs of Moher" and "A Cube of Sugar" are not penned by Parks.

It takes more than words like tarry, hither, elixer or sacred oath, to contribute to this feeling of discovered tracks rather than originals. Parks has succeeded in packaging ideas, words and melody lines to render a presentation that suggests the times of which she sings. Her wavering soprano slides from a traditional delivery of a catchy, rousing chorus to songs touching on operatic, and always with extreme enunciation.

Liner notes do credit finding letters from a distant Scottish relative for "Dear Sister." The song is based on the story of leaving Scotland and surviving a trip to America and the Revolutionary war as witnessed in Richmond, Maine. "Banks of the Kennebec: also involves the Maine coast and displays an appreciation of hard word amid loss and gain. Parks's historical settings capture the hardships of these lives so perfectly that one can picture the songs' choruses being sung ages ago to the rhythm of swinging pints.

Beyond historical settings, there are four seasonal anthems: "Song for Ostara" (April), "Song for Beltaine" (May),"Song for Samhain" (October) and "Song for Yule." Appropriate musical choices of pennywhistle, piano and hammered dulcimer adds to the pagan sensualities. She dedicates this release to victims of persecution, be it religious or political: I find this fitting as the CD bursts with the freedom for both -AP

- Sing Out! Magazine


written by Dai Woosnam, daigress@hotmail.com, 6/03/03

Just when I begin to despair at the decision of so many contemporary artistes to continue to write their own songs when they patently have no great aptitude in the songwriting department, along comes this album from a lady with a clear talent to draw this listener into her songs. And what's more, engage him fully whilst he was there, and spit him out the other end wanting more.

Victoria Parks is based in Columbus, Ohio. This is her second album. Her first was released in 1995, and the long 8 year gestation period before this 2003 release, tells me that it was less a case of "writer's block" but more"finely honing her skills". I was sublimely unaware of her 1995 release, but I would be fascinated to see what development there has been in her writing between the two. If her first album was HALF as good as this, then it will still be worth digging out.

Most of the songs here are self-penned, and range from ballads recalling historical events to songs that celebrate ancient Celtic holidays. There is throughout a constant sense of the links between North America and the British Isles: links that are historical, musical and cultural.

The voice is probably more that of a mezzo-soprano, for she is not altogether certain in the upper register. And there is a bit of wobble: an unintentional vibrato. But, guess what? To hell with the rulebook: to my ear she seems a splendid singer. Her effortless lower register really gives me a FRISSON of excitement on occasions, but what REALLY stirs me is the intelligent way you can hear her emphasising key words.
She is surrounded by a dizzying number of talented musicians playing all the usual folk instruments - plus one or two that aren't, like the electric sitar! - and playing them rather well. It was absolutely no hardship for me to play this album my customary three times before writing this review.

As to the songs, it is fair to say that I was less enamoured of the Celtic holidays/New Age stuff, than I was of her ballads recalling past family/historical events. Her opener is a bobby-dazzler of a number called "Brandy From The Cherry", relating how her dad born in the Prohibition years, was saved in infancy from death-through-fever by small amounts of illegal cherry brandy. Quite why I found this song so affecting, I am not sure: it is a powerful opener in that it tells an unusual story with words that pay their rent in every line, and has a driving melody and attractive hook to boot. But that in itself doesn't explain why to me it is the best song on the CD: I think in my case, the fact that for some years I travelled the length and breadth of Britain selling a cherry wine (Kirsberry isn't a brandy, I know) may have had something to do with it.

Hot on its heels is a fine song called "The Ballad of Uncle Davey". It is the best song on the dangers of coal-mining I've encountered, since first hearing the great Vin Garbutt sing "If I Had A Son" some 11 years ago. I wonder though if there wasn't something more here, and then the penny dropped.  My affection for the song was based in part on my losing my coal-miner dad to "black lung" when I was just ten years old.

And talking of loss: there is a song here called "Beautiful Hands". It made me think of that Jackson Browne song "For A Dancer". Raw honest confrontation with the aching void that loss brings. That I could even bracket it with that great searing song, well, it is praise indeed.
Buy this album. You won't be wasting your money.


Dai Woosnam
Grimsby, England
daigress@hotmail.com
- Kevin's Celtic and Folk Music CD Review


(Reprinted with permission)
by Reviewer Judith Gennett
©2003 October, 2003
The Green Man Review

(Wild Mane, 2003)

Victoria Parks is a singer and songwriter from Ohio who writes from the English-Celtic traditions, transported to America. On Wild English Rose, her second album, many of the tracks are based on stories from her family history, but there are other topics that may push the genre into traditional or contemporary folk.

The historical songs are the most interesting. What an inspiration for genealogists! My favorite is "Dear Sister," based on letters sent to Scotland in the late 18th century by her emigrant 5th great grandmother. The verses describe the life Sarah Parks was now leading in America and her reluctance to return, and they do sound like messages from old letters. "Banks Of The Kennebec" is a less personal male view of the history of the Parks family in Maine. "Brandy From The Cherry" is the story about a childhood friendship, bootlegging, and good fortune around West Lafayette, Indiana during the early 20th century. (Good to see she's an ethnic Hoosier, too!) "Uncle Dave" is about Uncle Dave the Collier from Scotland. He was laying with one foot in the grave without a pension, so his pals hauled him down in the pit for the last 90 days. Then they dragged his scarred and broken body out to show a high class opponent of pensions for miners. I bet that was a shock for her! These songs...but especially this last one...are really well devised lyrically and tunefully.

Also included are a quatro of seasonal "Songs For" (for "Ostara," "Beltaine," "Yule," and "Samhain.") These pieces are written and accompanied in adequately traditional Anglo-Celtic form, but with that characteristically anachronistic RenFest ambience. "Daphne, Daisies & Daffodils" is an alliterative contemporary song about Diane's Divorce. The flowers are cute; the backing strings are maudlin. "Caroline of Edinboro Town" is a nice traditional song paired with nicely simple guitar. "We are not Alone" is an anomaly...a good contemporary song "borrowed" from Lucy Pringle; it is particularly meaningful because the album was released near the time of the Iraqi invasion.

Parks has an interesting voice, from the same tonal category as Jean Ritchie. I like it because it's melodic, strong and authentic...and certainly not wispy, cute, or vampish! It is a good voice for history. Her catchy melodies are genuinely "folky" and blend well with the lyrics. The arrangements are mostly acoustic and fairly standard, with guitar and mandolin and sometimes flute or even bagpipes...arrangements to support the Parks voice rather than to breathe on their own. Some have piano or electronic keyboards; I know I sound like a broken CD, but what's the point of mushing up a historic song with swishy keyboards or "Bridge Over Troubled Water" piano? Imagine a rustic log cabin with a 90 inch TV screen!
Recommended especially for Renaissance-Pagan-Celtic Festival enthusiasts and genealogists, but "folk music" listeners will like the historical songs, and perhaps the Ditty Describing Diane's Day.

[Judith Gennett]

http://www.greenmanreview.com/cd/cd_vparks_wildenglishrose.html - Greenman Review


Reprinted from Victory Music Review, November 2003 by reviewer Betsy Wellings

TRADITIONAL STYLE ORIGINAL FOLK
Victoria Parks: Wild English Rose

Wild English Rose showcases Victoria Parks' clear and resonant singing voice and her spirited, well crafted songs. The instrumentation is largely of Celtic influence, and you think you are listening to a collection of centuries-old folk songs until you realize that Parks herself has written all but one. Parks recounts her family history, commemorates ancient Celtic holidays, and shares stories of herself, gently pulling the listener in to her world. I was particularly struck by "Beautiful Hands," a tribute to a loved one who's passed on, and "Dear Sister," a song based on letters written by her great (x5) grandmother to her sister in the 1700's. In Parks' own words, her music is spindled with fairy dust and flowers, and indeed, it has an undeniable magic to it, a warm-fuzzines tempered with hearty, bold, lyrical storytelling. In places it is a bit too flowery for my taste, but on the whole Wild English Rose is an excellent musical creation, worthy of repeated listenings. (Betsy Wellings)

http://www.victorymusic.org/vmreview/index.html

- Victory Music Review


Reprinted from Rambles online review by Wil Owen

Wild English Rose is Victoria Parks' second release after an eight-year hiatus from her prior release, Sure Feels Like Home. On her new CD, the music has a distinct Celtic influence. Hailing from Columbus, Ohio, Victoria's vocals sound predominantly midwestern but with an occassional English slant.
At first listen, Victoria's voice was a little piercing to my ears. The sound is quite distinct. However, she quickly won me over, persuading me that she has a very pretty voice. In many of the songs she harmonizes with herself, and these moments are truly special. Instrumentally, Victoria is backed by fiddle, mandolin, guitar, hammered dulcimer, piano, tin whistle, bodhran and Highland bagpipe.

The first track, "Brandy from the Cherry," is a true story about the curative powers of a liquor produced in the years of Prohibition. Victoria's grandfather was friends with a bootlegger whose moonshine saved his son from probable death due to pneumonia and diptheria. Does this prove that certain types of alcohol are good for you?

Most of the 13 tracks are Parks originals. The only exceptions are "Cliffs of Moher" (a traditional Irish jig; the second half of track 4), "A Cube of Sugar" (also a traditional Irish jig; the second half of track 9) and "Caroline of Edinboro Town." This last song is interesting in that Victoria found it in a family heirloom that dated back to the Revolutionary War!

There is only one track I am not partial to. Track 9 starts out with "Song for Yule." The chorus is what turns me off most. Hearing Victoria and guest vocalist Ron Price sing "Halloo, Hallay, Halloo Hallay" is grating to my ears. The track does redeem itself when it switches to "A Cube of Sugar" but this jig is awfully short.

Victoria Parks has a nice CD with Wild English Rose. She is a strong songwriter and better than average singer. Considering she produced the CD on her own label -- Wild Mane Music -- I am quite impressed with the quality. Despite one so-so track, I feel Victoria has a winner here.
- Rambles
written by Wil Owen
published 27 September 2003
http://www.rambles.net/parks_wilderose03.html - Rambles online


From Folk and Roots, London, England, August 2003

Victoria Parks - "Wild English Rose"
Victoria Parks is a Cleveland based singer-songwriter here releasing her second full length album. The first "Sure Feels Like Home" released in 95 was a mixture of folk, folk rock and a sampling of "Celtic" influences. On this second release Parks has travelled further down the 'Celtic' road mixing those influences together with tales from her own family history, and esoteric influences (neo-pagan or slightly less accurate "new age" if you prefer).

All the tracks on the CD, with the exception of "Caroline of Edinburgh Town", are self penned by Parks and as mentioned above the contents of the songs range from celebrating celtic esoteric traditions, storys from her family put into ballad form and a number of other songs.

Aside from Park's vocals she is accompanied by a wide range of musicians playing among their number Mandolins, fiddle, scottish pipes, fiddle, guitar whistle and considerably more which embelish Parks balladry.

Parks song writing and singing cover a range of topics often covering aspects of her family's history written from the view of the very participants she sings about. These songs range in topic from the tale of her Grandfather Morris who befriended local bootleggers as a boy, a friendship that was to play an important role in events later in his life, "Dear Sister" which is a reflection on the journey (physical and otherwise) of those who left the British Isles for a new life in America, to the tale of her ancestors who originally left these shores and the anguishes they endured during the process of resettling.

As mentioned above the sole track on the album that is not self penned is "Caroline of Edinbugh Town", a traditional British ballad that made its way across the Atlantic, however the style of this song fits in well with Parks own style of balladry. The remaining songs on this release are celebrations of celtic festivals and spiritual traditions such as Samhain and Beltaine.

As a vocalist presents her ballads combining both a firm voice with a sensitivity whilst clearly identifying with the subjects at hand, personally however I found the 'historical' tales or stories derived from her family background to be the strongest on the album. That said the thirteen tracks on the album offer a fine and varied journey through Parks songwriting and personal journeys.

http://www.folkandroots.co.uk/reviews.html - Folk and Roots, UK


CD REVIEW

Victoria Parks
Wild English Rose
Wild Mane Music, Columbus, Ohio
www.victoriaparks.com

I heard the songs on this CD out of sequence: Victoria performed "Song to Ostara" live at a coffeehouse in my hometown of Columbus, Ohio a few weeks before the Vernal Equinox. I went up to her and said, "move over, Loreena McKennitt!" Victoria laughed and suggested that I listen to the whole CD before making such sweeping judgments. So I did, and now my judgment is, "Move over, Loreena McKennitt!"

The cover notes to this CD acknowledge the inspiration of Victoria's ancestors, and that inspiration is clear. Though only four of the 13 selections on this album are explicitly "Pagan"--songs for Samhain, Yule, Ostara, and Beltaine--a Pagan sensibility infuses the entire album, with striking examples of still-very-vibrant family folklore in "Brandy from the Cherry," "Dear Sister," and "Banks of the Kennebec," especially.

Victoria is renowned as a storyteller among those who know her music well, and this album is clearly the work of an experienced and comfortable yarn-spinner, with fascinating tales and beguiling turns of phrase.

I have to say, though, that the musicality of this album is what impresses me most. The vocals are lovely--powerful and controlled with a maturity that hardships of recent years have brought to bear
on the artist. This album is proof to me that adversity builds character.

The instrumentation is lush without being in any way overproduced (a common weakness of recordings by folkies who, used to simplicity, tend to go overboard with an embarrassment of riches), and the whole
thing is balanced and consummately pleasant. Though there are stories aplenty to be found on this recording, I usually find myself just losing myself in it, transported by the sound.

"Song for Ostara" remains my favorite cut on this album, though it's hard to pick a favorite. It's eminently singable, at once lilting and strong, as Spring so often is. I think that the "Pagan" songs here are, in general, a bit complex for ritual use, but they are instructive as well as entertaining, among the best out there for educating oneself in the philosophies of the Old Religion for private enjoyment.

I suspect that Ms. McKennit would be pleased to scoot over and be joined by Ms. Parks.

©2003 Khrysso Heart LeFey
in "Every Muse News & Reviews," June 2003
http://www.paganinstitute.org - Every Muse News & Reviews


Discography

Duhmocracy (2007) Full length CD of humor and satire released under pseudonym Victrola & the Duhst Bunnies

Say a Prayer for America (2004), CD Single rock anthem

Wild English Rose (2003), Full length CD of folk and traditionally-influenced songwriting

Sure Feels Like Home (1995) Full length CD of folk & folk-rock

Photos

Bio

Award-winning songwriter. Nominee for Best Political Album, 2009 Just Plain Folks Music Awards from over 42,000 entries. Her humor always delivers a strong mixture of pathos and social irony. Her love of traditional Scottish and Irish music shines through as strongly suited to her. She will move with facility between traditions. Victoria is a fine interpreter of traditional and contemporary ballads and has a keen sense of humor. Her voice is both haunting and powerful. She demonstrates true skill for creating melody suited to harmony. Her unique voice can be extremely tender and up close, then turn to become huge, mature. She plays her instrument with an equal skill that 25 years of writing and performing has brought to this seasoned performing songwriter.
Her Cleveland roots reveal themselves in a mix of folk and Midwestern rock. Victoria's rich background of influences has molded a well rounded songwriter. Her original material speaks for itself in form and content. She writes music topical to the present even if it regards the past. She'll pen an historical ballad with as much facility as she does a simple experience or emotion with her anthems. Through all her songs, she never betrays her deep sense of political or personal history. Interwoven through them are common threads that cry for justice. Her messages ring across the barriers of ages, cultures and the material world. Her songs possess universal appeal and brilliant social humor. Victoria Parks is a world voice deserving a global audience.

To Her Credit:
• Nominee Best Political Album 2009 Just Plain Folks Music Awards from over 42,000 entries

• 2009 recipient of the Free Press Arts Activism Award

• Wild English Rose Editor's Choice 2003 FolkWorld Magazine, UK

• Wild English Rose, Victoria's 2003 CD release ranks #35 in June 2003 FolkDJ Top 70 Playlists, and receives airplay on sixty radio stations in America, Ireland, Australia, Belgium and Germany in first month of release

• in 2003, tracks from Victoria's release Wild English Rose have been featured on over 100 radio stations worldwide

• Honor Award Winner in the 6th Annual 2004 Great American Song Contest for "Say a Prayer for America"

• Only Honorable Mention in the Best Spiritual/Mystical Song in the 2003 Hosting of the Bards Song Contest,, part of the Catskill Song & Poetry Festival, Calicoon, NY

• 2 Honorable Mentions in Folk/Acoustic & Children's/Novelty categories in 2002 Madison Songwriters Group Song Contest, Madison, WI

• 2003 Plainsong Folk Festival Mainstage Performer, Lincoln, NE

• Finalist in the 2002 South Florida Folk Festival Song Competition, Ft. Lauderdale, FL

• 7th place in Open/World Music category out of 1300 entrants in the 1999 Mid-Atlantic Song Contest for her song "Love Croaks", Washington, DC

• Honorable Mention in the 1998 Napa Valley Folk Festival's Emerging Songwriter Showcase on first submission for Sure Feels Like Home; Napa, CA

• Showcase artist at the North American Folk Alliance Conference: 2002, Jacksonville, Florida; 2000, Cleveland, OH

• Opener for Tom Paxton , Bob Gibson, Josh White Jr., Pierce Pettis, Maura O'Connell, David Olney, and the Washington Sisters

• Tracks from her debut CD Sure Feels Like Home selected as first tracks for Acoustic Harvest II and Acoustic Harvest IV — Sure Feels Like Home and Warm is the Light, respectively, Brandy from the Cherry was chosen for Fertile Land, Acoustic Harvest III, All are compilation discs of the Cleveland area folk music organization, Folknet.

• Live radio appearances on syndicated public radio programs such as Woodsongs Old Time Radio Hour with host Michael Jonathan, and River City Folk with Tom May