Since 2009, The Mountain Laurels have brought Celtic folk music to the Boone area, performing at festivals, weddings, local venues and more.
After the success of their first album, 2012’s “Highland Bloom,” The Mountain Laurels decided to return to the recording studio with fresh inspiration, culminating in their newest release, “Edge of the Dance.”
The Mountain Laurels celebrate “Edge of the Dance” with a release party at Lost Province Brewery (130 N. Depot St. in Boone) Friday, March 6, at 8 p.m.
The group’s newest release is different from the last in that it doesn’t contain original songs, but revamps traditional Celtic and Appalachian tunes, injecting them with femininity and grace in a way that only a five-piece, all-women band could.
“‘Edge of the Dance’ highlights the Celtic traditional tunes and musically sophisticated airs, jigs, reels and hornpipes, as well as the group’s version of Jay Ungar’s ‘Lovers Waltz,’” guitarist Elaine Gray writes in a news release. “The tunes on the ‘Edge of the Dance’ could easily inspire listeners to a high stepped jig or a whirling waltz, but the remarkably polished edge of this dance of Celtic fusion highlights the versatility of classically trained violinist Rhonda Lorence and the award winning Irish flutist, Louise Keegan.”
In August 2014, The Mountain Laurels traveled to Keegan’s hometown of Limerick, Ireland, to perform at her wedding. While there, the group absorbed the Irish culture, rejuvenating the band with authentic inspiration for their newest album.
“Edge of the Dance” costs $9.99 and is available for download online in the iTunes store and at www.cdbaby.com. CDs are also available at several locations in town, as well as at the release party.
About the Band
In addition to guitarist Gray, violinist Lorence and flutist Keegan, The Mountain Laurels also consists of Connie Woolard on percussion and dulcimer and Suzi Mills on vocals, bass and accordion. Also featured on the album was Mountain Laurels alumni Lauren Hayworth singing the Celtic tune, “May Morning Dew.”
The Mountain Laurels came together as a three-piece group when Woolard contacted Lorence about a violin lesson. Woolard brought her dulcimer to the lesson, where the two played a few tunes together.
Upon hearing the ladies play together, Gray, who had been working upstairs at the time, offered to join in on guitar. The three have been playing, recording and performing in Boone since 2009.
In 2010, Mills joined the group, bringing fresh vocals and bass, and in 2013, the group was completed with Keegan bringing the flute.
Interestingly enough, Gray and Mills performed together in Central Florida pop-rock band The Mix in the 1980s only to reunite by chance at Appalachian State University 20 years later, where they once again would perform and record music together.
All five women in the group are highly talented professional musicians who share a love for Celtic music. When Keegan joined in 2013, the group gained even more Celtic influence, as the flutist was raised in Ireland and classically trained in flute at Trinity College in London.
“The Celtic influence in Edge of the Dance highlights a variety of jigs, reels, airs and hornpipes, many of which Louise brought to the band,” Gray writes.
Lorence, violist and violinist, has brought out her inner-fiddler with fast-paced Celtic jigs and Appalachian tunes. With a BFA in music performance from University of South Florida, Lorence has shared a stage with Tony Bennett, in addition to performing with the Russian Ballet Orchestra and the Tampa Bay Opera.
“The band records in Rhonda’s home studio in Deep Gap,” Gray writes. “A true-to-life indie band, Rhonda has mixed and engineered the group’s two CDs.”
Woolard, who has been performing on dulcimer for more than 25 years, provides The Mountain Laurels with their signature sound, according to Gray.
Gray herself has been performing with her guitar since 1980, bringing 35 years of cross-genre experience and to the band. She also co-produces the sound recordings.
ASU professor and gospel choir member Mills brings bluegrass, folk and pop-rock influence to The Mountain Laurels. In addition to soulful vocals, Mills additionally plays bass and accordion in some numbers.
For more information, visit www.themountainlaurels.com.