Napra Trade Journal
Another drumhead's delight from premier World Beat Percussionist Jim McGrath. Five tight works are presented here, all over ten minutes long but with never a boring moment. The promo says he "continues to break new ground in capturing the spiritual essence of ancient and modern tribal rhythms." The sheer breadth of the world percussive instruments collected on this album makes it worth a listen. And the wordless vocals of the of three songstresses, Celtic Maireid Sullivan, African Ijeoma Njaka, and South American Lily DeLaMora, add an other-wordly dimension that evokes ancient ritual.
Frankly, the way I judge a percussion album is to watch what happens to my body. If suddenly I see my feet hopping around and my hips swaying, it's in. By that standard, this one is in, very in.
New Age Voice
Opening with the title cut and cooking on through "Seventh Trance", Soul Dancer is a great album for dancing. After establishing the groove, McGrath uses sharper, higher pitched sounds over the bass, as well as a selection of mid-range percussion to create the interlocking rhythms and crosstalk between the drums. In the groove, you can hear djembes, congas, cowbells, talking drums, cymbals and others making their voices distinctly heard, while the bass rolls on. He uses no synthesizers, samplers or sequencers to create the sounds, only voices to accent the drumming with an atmospheric style. McGrath's drums cut right to the primitive communication, encouraging the listener to get up and move. A really hot mix of world beat music, drawing from a wide range of ethnic and tribal traditions to create a sizzling dance album.
Instrumentation: djembe, timbalis played with sticks (hot rods), congas, bongos, udu, talking drums, djun djun, surdo, berimbau, gongoques, bendir, tar, rik, assorted frame drums, doumbec, darbouka, bodhran, madal, water drums, bells, chimes, shakers, rainsticks and gongs.
-- Dan Liss--
New Age Retailer & The Montly Aspectarian
McGrath's solo debut, Percussive Environments, has been a staple at alternative/communal dance centers and informal drum circles for several years. Now, experience the rapturous, tribal - ambient rhythms of his newest world fusion outing through five compositions utilizing only real instruments and ethereal voices (no samplers, sequencers or synthesizers). Perfectly timed at between 11-16 minutes in length, each track features an introductory section - which enables one to naturally get into and groove to the beat - and progressively dynamic, worldbeat rhythms which consistently stimulate the senses. Middle Eastern doumbecs, African djun djuns, congas, bongos, rainsticks, bells, shakers and many other percussion instruments intermingle in exciting combinations, offering many opportunities for movement, development and interpretation.
Alternative Music Press
On his latest release on Talking Drum Records, Jim McGrath creates the ultimate percussion album by marrying the deep, powerful sound of percussion instruments from around the globe with the gifted voices of Mairéid Sullivan, Ijeoma Njaka, and Lily De La Mora.
Looking back at the roots of percussion, it's no wonder the civilized paradigm has again and again outlawed the music of earthen spirituality, the Christianized Roman Empire banning the drum as 'Licentious' and'mischievious', the colonizers of the 'New World' passing edicts against the percussive music of their African slaves. The sacred drum did indeed inspire a transition from linear to virtual reality, from manipulable time to the eternal present. It encouraged outlaw bliss, and reunited the participants with the Earth, the source and power and inspiration for their resistance. A conscious return to rhythm is the return to natural forces, to our personal song, to us. 'Soul Dancer' in it's own unique way, is an invitation to this inner dance of life. The drums and their shifting rhythms transport listeners through a variety of moods. It is an auditory landscape of ritual sounds and intense trance inducing rhythms. The pieces are long gradually unfolding conversations of rhythm, ranging from 11 minutes to 16 minutes long. The 5 pieces represented here span 68 minutes and in that time frame transport the listener to an intimate inner dance.
One of the album's highlights, 'Mirage' features the wonderful voice of Mairéid Sullivan, who gracefully adds an air of mystique and magic as her sensitive vocals soar above the percussion, entranced in the primal beat. Ijeoma Njaka and Lily De La Mora also add some great moments of contrast between voice and percussion on 'Sacred Earth', and 'Seventh Trance'.
Jim McGrath is a talented sonic architect who produces powerful music which stirs the imagination and moves the soul. He drives each piece with his mezmerizing percussion creating upbeat and exciting artistry within a delicate balance of traditional and inventive structures.
Real To Reel News
It takes a particularly inventive drummer to sustain interest throughout an all percussion album, and Jim McGrath is just the man for the job. On his third album, Soul Dancer, he skilfully maintains both the energy level and our attention span during the five extended tracks that clock in between 10 and 15 minutes each.
McGrath multi-tracks himself to become a one man percussion orchestra, using a wide assortment of drums, hand bells, shakers and assorted noise-makers, setting up complex but fluid polyrhythns which are highlighted by double-time flurries, unexpected accents, splashing cymbals, crashing gongs, and tinkling chimes. Irish chanteuse Maireid Sullivan lends some off-the-planet chanting to the watery "Mirage," while Lily De La Mora adds ethereal touches to "Sacred Earth" and Lily is joined by African vocalist Ijeoma Njaka to create a powerfull chant on the propulsive "Seventh Trance." Like his one-time collaborator, Brent Lewis, before him Jim McGrath has mastered the art of knowing how to move his audience's feet while also entertaining and stimulating thier minds.
- James Haig-
Wings CD Review
Soul Dancer is an unusual CD. It features only five songs, but what songs! They are 11 to 16 minutes each, for a total of 68 minutes of soul pulsing drums, percussion, and occaisional voices. According to the press release I read, this music combines the beats of African Talking Drum, Djun Djun and Djembe, the Mid Eastern Dumbec, Rik and the Australian Bullroarer, Cuban Congas and Bongos, Peruvian Cajons, Water Drums, Rainsticks, assorted Bells, Shakers and Chimes and some musical creations of the author as well. Not to mention the voices of Maireid Sulivan from Ireland, Ijeoma Njaka from Africa, and Lily De La Mora from South America!
As I listened to this CD, my body responded, I wanted to move, I HAD to move...you cannot sit still with this music. It gets into your very soul and you react. This brings out the primitive in you, the desire to move, to sway, to be the original wild self....you've got to hear this.
--Carleen E. Ellis--
"Musician Jim McGrath has the soul of an urban shaman and his newest release Soul Dancer is the perfect venue for his percussive magic. Those listeners who venture on to mystical paths will readily appreciate how each track of this offering awakens deep, archetypal and spiritual energies. His rhythmic music is distinctive, mysterious and intricate -- yet accessible. I find the musical work of Jim McGrath invaluable in my own spiritual journeys. You will too."
Author of Dark Moon Mysteries and
The Once Unknown Familiar
Soul Dancer is a versatile recording that connects on multiple
levels of listener participation, serving the mood of the moment. It suits as ambient background fare.Or, you can pump up the volume and
let the rhythms carry you away.The disc contains five compositions
ranging from 11 minutes to 16 minutes. All achieve a percolating
flow along McGrath's veritable river of percussive devices - African
talking Drum, djembe, djun djun, Middle Eastern dumbec, tar, rik and
darabouka, the Irish bodhran, the Moroccan bendir, congas, bongos,
cajons, water drums and rainsticks, not to mention an array of bells,
shakers and chimes. Lilting female voices from Irish, African and South
American traditions accentuate the tribal-ambient grooves to hypnotic
DRUMBEATS CALLING FROM THE EARTH
Jim McGrath has his third release, "Soul Dancer,and it marks another positive change in direction for this spiriteddrummer. His first, "Percussive Environments," was a hypnotic release unlike any of our drum titles. His 2nd, "Drum Spirit" was more in the realm of Mickey Hart and Gabrielle Roth. Now he takes it even further into the World Music arena, with five long tracks that never get boring. Besides his familiarity with a total array of world percussive instruments, and his blending of ancient & modern tribal rhythms, there is the captivating presence of 3 songstresses, adding wordless vocals and an other-worldly dimension that evokes ancient rituals. Celtic chanteuse Mairead Sullivan, African Ijeoma Njaka, & South American Lily De La Mora get the body rhythms rooted in the Earth, making for cross-cultural magic that further establishes Jim among our top drummers.
Jim McGrath/Soul Dancer
Stephan Baer/The Dark Frontier
Jim McGrath and Stephan Baer are both accomplished percussionists, relying on a variety of ethnic instruments to express thier ideas. Baer's disc is informed by African rhythms and styles,while McGrath's ranges more widely, including Latin and Asian elements, as well as sounds of nature in his composititons. If you like the voice of the drum or are just looking for some well-crafted original music, both of these discs will appeal to you.