THE WHILEAWAYS, From What We’re Made
Ever since they formed in 2013, this Galwegian trio have forged a formidable reputation for crafting deceptively simple, deeply affecting Americana-tinged folk. Their third full-length album, From What We're Made doesn't stray from their admittedly successful formula too massively and the 12 track release is laden with absolutely stunning melodies and harmonies. Successfully capturing the intimacy and excitement of their live shows, fans of kindred spirits The Staves and First Aid Kit will enjoy what The Whileaways are cooking.
'Mother Says' kicks things off strongly, a flawless marriage of banjos and harmonies. From there on, the likes of the handclap-infused, skiffle-tinged 'Roll Down Your Window' and the super sweet 'Loneliest Girl' help make album number three their most impressive yet. It's the vocals that really make The Whileaways stand out from the crowd: Noelie McDonnell, Noriana Kennedy and Nicola Joyce stake their claim to being among the finest singers in the country on 'Julia' and 'Hardworking' in particular. Whatever they're made of, I want more.
THE WHILEAWAYS, From What We’re Made
Irish Music Magazine
Recorded and mixed by Seán Óg Graham, The Whileaways’ new album From What We’re Made is innovative, contemporary, and relevant to writing and recording in the modern world. With twelve original songs, their themes are concerned with family, relationships, travel and love songs that are heart warming and heart breaking in equal measure. There are no down by the sally garden lyrics here, this band who describe their own style as ‘Irish roots’, descriptive enough, fitting, but the Whileaways’ material could be more genre defying than that.
There’s great originality here, in the ethereal singing voices of Norianna Kennedy and Nicola Joyce and the earthiness, honesty and lyricism of Noelie McDonnell’s work. Mother Says is Kennedy’s sweet, personal poem, an inverse blessing, from child to mother, a child who was ‘never left crying, never left alone/never left wondering where is my home’, the melody is rich and sustaining. Accompaniment on five string banjo, double bass, guitars and percussion is tasteful throughout, never getting in the way of the singing. The human voice is everything here, the phrasing unusual, the imagery realistic. Nicola Joyce’s Loneliest Girl, a nod to the fantasist existence, ‘she makes up her face for the lovers in her head/she makes up her bed’, an unapologetic rendering of isolation, beautifully delivered. Julia, from Noelie McDonnell’s pen is philosophical, something moody but giving in it: ‘And every heart you meet will softly beat/and meet a heart that’s true in you’, the song has uniqueness of message, simple yet profound and insightful. I Am A Hill is terrific, the soundtrack for a small movie telling the love story within the song.
The solo voices, the harmonies, straight up and collaborative, all are robust. The work is tightly woven, experimental, fresh and energetic, a listening delight.
Anne Marie Kennedy
THE WHILEAWAYS, From What We’re Made
The Irish Echo
I love Irish Americana—Eirecana as it’s sometimes called—because it sounds like home. The home I’m talking about is not a physical domestic space or a region on a map but rather the feeling of an imaginary pseudo-nation in which I, like so many other Irish Americans, feel most comfortable, most like myself. I like to think of this imagined nation-space as somewhere in the middle of the Atlantic, halfway through the Aer Lingus flight, where the idea of singing “The Fields of Athenry” after Thanksgiving turkey is not so incongruous, or where “March madness” means both basketball games and an endless itinerary of St. Patrick’s Day parades. It’s a place of perfect liminality, the bedrock of Irish-American identity and indeed, of Irish Americana. It’s at this point in the flight, or perhaps when I’m feeling like an outsider in either Dublin or Boston, that I listen to the Whileaways, a band that represents the best of Eirecana today. Their latest album, “From What We’re Made” (2018), gave me that comforting feeling of home while also reminding me this home space of in-between, neither fully American nor “really” Irish, is also a place of subtle, dulcet melancholy. Because of course, when you feel most at home in the liminal, it also means you don’t fully belong on either side of the divide. “From What We’re Made,” at every turn gorgeously gloomy and sweetly nostalgic, makes that sadness of being in between beautiful and palatable.
The Irish Times - Siobhan Long - The Whileaways Album 2013
Americana has always found firm purchase round these parts, and this newly hewn trio mine a rich seam that owes something to Gillian Welch, Emmylou Harris and Rodney Crowell. But mostly The Whileaways deal a hand all of their own making. With a seven original songs and a refreshingly spirited take on the hoary old The Banks of the Ohio, Noriana Kennedy, Nicola Joyce and Noelie McDonnell cut a confident trail through the undergrowth of roots music. Kennedy’s songwriting is the highlight of this set piece, with opener Dear My Maker managing to both set and steal the scene in a few short minutes. Kennedy and Joyce harmonise with sibling-like ease, while McDonnell adds a six stringed backbone to the mix. This is an audacious debut (which hollers for a chance to be heard in a live setting, so rich is its lyrical tapestry) from musicians whose experience pays ample dividends here.
The Irish Times - Siobhan Long - Saltwater Kisses 2015
The intuitive quality of the harmonies on the Whileaways’ debut collection suggest a sibling kinship, but it’s marriage and friendship that bind them so intimately. Longer in gestation than they’d originally planned, this is music made for long, lazy evenings on the porch where finger-pickin’ patterns cast sprightly shapes across the melodies.Shades of the Carolina Chocolate Drops and the Be Good Tanyas colour the Whileaways’ essence, with Noriana Kennedy’s feathery vocals intertwine with the darker tones of Nicola Joyce, the pair revelling in their own inimitable double helix. Noelie McDonnell brings a deep southern sensibility, in the style of Eric Bibb: languid and unforced. Lyrically the trio manage intimacy without oversharing. You’re Home is a glorious bedfellow to the band’s earlier, wistful Dear My Maker.
The Irish Echo - Colleen Taylor
One of my favorite Eircana bands, the Whileaways, are back in business. I fell in love with their sound after hearing them at Whelan’s in Dublin two years ago, and their self-titled first album quickly became one of the “most played” on my iTunes. Now the Whileaways, comprising Noriana Kennedy, Noelie McDonnell, and Nicola Joyce, are gearing up for a sophomore album release. Kennedy had been on tour with Solas over the summer, but she’s returned to her Galway roots and her hometown band. “Saltwater Kisses” is the band’s new album, and it doesn’t disappoint. It reflects an array of music simultaneously traditional and inventive, inflecting the old balladeer tradition with modernized rootsy flare. “Saltwater Kisses” showcases this band’s musical penchant: perfected simplicity. The songs avoid superfluous ornamentation and let the harmonies and instruments speak for themselves, proving each one of this trio’s natural talent. In particular, I can’t stop listening to “She Waits” and “Wake Up Sleepyhead.” They’ve also included some gorgeous instrumental arrangements on the album as well. Not to mention, the band sounds even more polished than they did in their debut record. This time round, the Whileaways add even more sophistication to their harmonies and collaborations. This trio was meant to play together. This autumn, the band is promoting their new album with an Irish tour. Fingers crossed for an American invasion soon.