This is the album that started it all. The Once’s self-titled debut has solidified itself as one of the most important, and wide-reaching Newfoundland albums of all time. Its critical success has been incredible as well. It received four 2009 Music Newfoundland and Labrador awards including Rising Star of the Year, Folk Roots Recording of the Year, Album of the Year and Group of the Year. The success of the album also spawned a recording deal with Canadian folk record company, Borealis Records.
The band performed multiple shows at the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver, toured with legendary storyteller, Stuart McLean and his show, The Vinyl Café, took home two Canadian Folk Music Awards for Traditional Album of the Year and Best New Emerging Artist, won a Galaxie Rising Star award for their performance at the Goderich Celtic Roots Festival and took home the 2011 East Coast Music Award for Best Group. The band has toured the world and has wowed audiences along the way. It has been a phenomenal and well-deserved few years for The Once.
As the aforementioned accolades imply, the album is fantastic. Built around the charming, inviting and versatile voice of Geraldine Hollett the album is rounded out beautifully by Phil Churchill and Andrew Dale who split duties, masterfully, between acoustic guitar, bouzouki, banjo and mandolin. They also provide incredible vocal harmonies. Geraldine occasionally plays bodhran and tambourine and the sound created is lovely and warm. The arrangements are well-crafted and executed with acute precision. Arguably, the most impressive element of the music is the seemingly effortless blending of three unique and entirely complimentary voices. Geraldine has wonderful emotive control of her voice. At times it teems with sincere sadness (Marguerite) and at others complete gusto and boldness (Anthem). Throughout the range of moments she is confident and self-assured, her honesty and conviction never waivers. Phil thickens the vocal mix by covering the low end and Andrew tends to carry the tenor parts. This mixing of three exceptional voices creates a beautiful tapestry whether it be atop instrumentation or standing alone on a beautiful a capella tune (The Briar and the Rose, Coming Back to You). The folk styling of this record have a familiar sound but there is a fresh youthfulness and currency to the album that has made it our biggest selling and most popular album in over a decade.