Celtic Christian Tunes Wondrous Love, Radio Angel Music: It's always refreshing to hear recordings hit the scene from "new talent", especially in a genre as relatively narrow as Celtic Christian. Caroline Bowles' Wondrous Love and Christmas Carols are two such recordings. Bowles, who has for several years led worship at contemporary services at St. John the Divine Episcopal Church in Houston, Texas, has selected several folk hymns that are important parts of Christian musical heritage, and updated them to appeal to the aesthetic sensibilities of modern audiences. Musically, these recordings combine elements of new age music with more subtle folk and Celtic influences. From the bagpipe-emulating electric guitar work of "My Shepherd" to the real shuttle pipes of "Amazing Grace", to the clear Celtic flavor of "Wondrous Love's" cello accompaniment, this album contains several Celtic punctuation points among a sea of mellow contemporary music. It is all tied together, however, with the haunting percussion work of Ray Dillard, which I consider to be one of this recording's most distinctive elements. As an example, "I Will Arise" is a sweet ethereal piece whose tonal instrumentation is limited to cello and flute, but its impressive percussion keeps it moving along. Though reminiscent of Michael Card's adaptation of this old hymn, Caroline's is more mellow and less melodramatic. Also impressive is Karen Leslie Birch's fresh oboe treatment in "St. Patrick's Hymn". The oboe is joined by a pleasing hammered dulcimer arrangement; I haven't heard this familiar hymn quite this way before.” - Cory C. Engel


This CD is a real find. Caroline Bowles brings a warmth and freshness to this eclectic collection of Christmas and traditional melodies. Why have I not heard of Caroline before? She is an original talent. Her voice has a rare and entrancing combination of achingly pure tone and sensual warmth. She’s always sincere but never earnest. Bowles clearly takes pleasure in broad musical palette. Celtic, folk and gospel influences echo though the album. Enya-like resonances meet the haunting simplicity of the Voix Bulgares. There’s a lively musical intelligence at work here.” - David Pearl

Lively Arts, London

This was a refreshing find. A wonderful arrangement of some of the original versions of these old hymns. Great Celtic sound. Diverse, moving, simple and non-commercialized. Caroline Bowles' hauntingly beautiful voice and her rich interpretation of these wonderful old hymns speaks to the heart. It is a peaceful "wondrous" experience listening to this great CD. - Carol Anderson Shores, Black Mountain, North Carolina USA My life is so full of schedules, carpools, and deadlines, I love to slip in my "Wondrous Love" CD and be still and hear God speak through Caroline's soothing, contemplative voice. Thanks for the "spiritual spa" experience! - Barbara Schusterman, Houston, Texas USA Caroline Bowles has combined heartfelt simplicity with bell-like clarity in rendering this tasteful collection of hymn tunes. The ensemble supporting her is skilled and creative, yet the most compelling aspect of this CD is Caroline's unmannered crystal clear voice. Her instrument soars with the passion and grace of a lark. The tunes are profoundly simple. They seem chosen to embed themselves ever so sweetly in the heart of the listener. I highly recommend this wonderful collection. -Tom Bozeman, Bozeman, Montana USA A divine voice, leading us into the presence of the Divine. We use these CDs in our prayer services, and very much enjoy them. - Rev. Randolph Vickers, Northumbrian Centre for Prayer and Christian Healing, Newcastle, England UK I never tire of listening to her CDs. - Joe Caldwell, Okmulgee, Oklahoma USA Simply exquisite...they heal and inspire, these songs do. They strengthen and evoke mystery, both by the quality of her voice and by the accompaniment, so ancient and yet so modern. I am happy and grateful for this recording. - Rev. David Price, Houston, Texas USA This album is a true blessing. Bowles' voice and phrasing lifts the listener and makes the music both universal and intimate at the same time. She blends the gospel traditions with mystic Celtic themes in such a way that they seem old friends. I recommend it highly. - John Cassidy, Austin, Texas USA Caroline Bowles has been stirring the senses of her Houston hometown for years with her beautiful voice and spiritual lyrics. Now with the release of her "Wondrous Love" CD, the rest of the nation will have the opportunity to hear what Houston fans have come to regard as one of Christian music's best performers. - Carron Haight, Boston, Massachusetts USA It’s fantastic! full of passion, while at the same time preserving an essentially folk like approach. I was pleasantly surprised over and over again by hearing the arrangements of these familiar tunes. Wondrous Love actually made me cry and I found myself holding my breath through Amazing Grace. I am attracted to the interesting colors and textures of the percussion and the guitar work is beautifully sophisticated - a real Celtic flavor on several of them. And many places I find myself being led into a very intimate contemplative place. This may well become my favorite album. - Max Dyer, Houston, Texas USA I really appreciate the song selection -- Christmas Carols has some of my absolute favorites, rather than the tired old 'greatest hits' lineup that keeps me from buying the usual Christmas CD. Great idea, great performance! - Barbara Schusterman, Houston, Texas USA Listening to Caroline Bowles' "Christmas Carols" CD imbues you with the Christmas spirit no matter what season of the year it is. Her music is absolutely transcending! - Carron Haight, Boston, Massachusetts USA The voice of an angel! Wondrous Love brings the music into the twenty-first century while still grasping its essence. Caroline Bowles does more justice to these hymns than many popular contemporary Christian artists who have sung them. All performances on Wondrous Love are outstanding. - Lynn Greenly, Dallas, Texas USA For many years, I have been a fan of Celtic and early American music, and now am a fan of the “new age” style, atmospheric sound as well. It is fascinating to hear the two put together. The arrangements are very natural -- the power and melody of the original tunes comes through clearly, but in a completely fresh and unexpected way. - Barbara Horan, Denver, Colorado USA I just wanted to tell you that I LOVE this CD! I've never been a big fan of Celtic folk music - what little I've heard has always seemed rather alien to me. I think that Caroline Bowles does an outstanding job of making our “heritage” hymns more accessible to the average listener. It has definitely left me wanting to hear more. - Natasha Desai, Seattle, Washington, USA The music is haunting, beautiful, and transcendent. Caroline Bowles’ voice is a delight to hear. I am very glad I stumbled upon the web site and was able to hear the samples. I was sold immediately and submitted my order the same day. - ZsaZsa R., Budapest, Hungary Wondrous Love is absolutely fantastic from beginning to end! Being an avid fan of new age music, as well as sacred music, Wondrous Love is a dream come true. Thanks for this marvelous CD experience. - Laurie Prall, Bellingham, Washington, USA What a beautiful work of Christian artistry! The vocals are simply stunning. I haven't heard many recordings in my lifetime that moved me to tears on the first listen but this was one. - Rob Coates, Mason City, Iowa USA Wow! When I heard Caroline's wonderful voice and the simple powerful arrangements, I was moved to tears. I just ordered a CD and will probably hang out at your site listening to the samples until it arrives. Please keep recording! - Marcus McClary, Cedar Park, Texas USA Beautiful! Thanks so much -- we will be blessed by these CDs for many hours to come! I am a grateful fan of Caroline’s and a recipient of the blessings scattered by her beautiful music! - Edward Fudge, Houston, Texas USA”

— Listner comments

Reminiscent of Enya, Caroline Bowles' voice is the star of this show. Her haunting, almost child-like tones float with beauty and grace over the largely traditional holiday numbers in "Christmas Carols." Bowles loves Celtic-roots music, and that fascination is reflected here. Christmas Carols" has thirteen cuts, and the focus is on contemplative, religious numbers. The song selections are solid and include some personal favorites ("Lo, How a Rose E'er Blooming," "Huron Carol"). The artist's voice is both expressive and innocent, gently demanding the listeners' attention as it weaves a spell over musical territory both familiar and unknown. Highlights abound; I especially enjoyed the highland pipes, which eerily charge the atmosphere on "Away in a Manger" and "In the Bleak Midwinter." "Silent Night," the album's final cut, is an excellent showcase for Bowles' slightly breathy, but pure, vocal. Caroline Bowles and her husband Randall Furlong started their recording label, Radio Angel Records, in July 2000 to promote Christian independent artists. The company name is quite appropriate, especially given the uniquely angelic quality of Bowles' voice. Christmas Carols" is a lovely holiday CD. If Enya or Loreena McKennitt has ever found a spot on your CD shelf, then you should definitely welcome Caroline Bowles into your home this Christmas.” - Carol Swanson


Wondrous Love is a collection of inspirational hymns performed in a unique blend of Celtic, baroque and new age styles. The album combines relaxing warm vocal performances accompanied by some of the most beautiful keyboard and acoustic musical arrangements I have heard for a long time. Also reviewed from Radio Angel Records is Christmas Carols, a soothing musical seascape of acoustic and electronic instruments for truly seasonal late night listening and relaxation. Wondrous Love: The album opens with a beautiful symphonic blend of strings, keyboard and classical guitar, a sea of warmth on which Caroline floats with her pure and clear vocal performance of “Gentlest Savior”. Almost immediately I was captivated by the relaxing warmth from both Caroline’s voice and the music. A mellow backdrop of piano, deep strings and keyboard orchestration provide a somewhat haunting but relaxing mood to the second track, “Lover of my Soul". In an expressive arrangement of “Were You There”, Bowles begins to sing unaccompanied with a crispness and purity that kept me gripped to every word. A beautiful ambient silence embellishes each word, as a delicate classic guitar and cello accompaniment slowly unfolds. The track manages to maintain a wondrous atmospheric sensibility throughout, open and slightly haunting, yet warm, incredibly relaxing and totally beautiful. Moving through the album we find an intriguing arrangement of “My Shepherd”, combining distant thick sustained overdriven guitar textures overlaid with a deep sequence of pounding tom drums. Caroline’s voice is contrasted her again, seated high over the wash of rich underlying texture and projecting a strong but still pure and warm performance. An Irish flute solo introduces “I will arise”, arranged with a distinctive rhythm composed of deep drum, congas and some wonderful almost Arabic like percussion. The vocal performance flows seamlessly throughout each verse, capturing a wonderful sense of the underlying rhythms. More baroque-like orchestration and subtle Celtic percussion lines unfold in “St Patrick’s hymn”, where the lead vocal is further enriched by some pleasant backing harmonies towards the end of the track. The eighth track on this ten track album, “Wondrous Love” combines a chillingly rich cello solo line to accompany Bowles’s warm and expressive vocals. The music does drop out midway for a few measures, allowing the sheer presence of Caroline’s voice to stand front stage and then finishes with an expressive sweet violin solo. The soft percussion is picked up once more in the penultimate track, together with expressive and open string orchestrations, acoustic guitars and dulcimer, slowly unfolding with an almost oriental feel. The album finishes off with a traditional arrangement of “Amazing Grace”, complete with highland bagpipes. Caroline’s warm deliverance of each verse is accompanied by open tabla percussion, deep pipe drones, subtle acoustic guitar and rich cello. A beautiful instrumental solo picks up the melody midway, followed by a change in key as a warm atmospheric soundtrack accompanies the final verses. In conclusion, Wondrous Love is simply that, a wondrous collection of inspirational hymns performed in a unique blend of Celtic, baroque and new age styles. The album combines relaxing warm vocal performances accompanied by some of the most beautiful keyboard and acoustic musical arrangements I have heard for a long time. Even if hymn albums aren’t necessarily your thing, the captivating musical beauty of this album is enough to warrant adding it to any collection.” - Simon Williams

SVP World

Christmas Carols, Radio Angel Music: Despite it's deceptively plain title, this album is anything but ordinary. These tracks gain a new personality on this disc, thanks largely to the arrangement and conducting of Paul English, who also contributed his keyboarding and production skills to the project. The orchestration adds a certain richness to these familiar sacred hymns. Celtic influences in this album are somewhat more subtle than in Wondrous Love, but nonetheless clear in the Highland pipes of "Away in a Manger" and "In the Bleak Midwinter". Continuity of this style is maintained by harp and flute emphases in several songs. Music selection is important when considering holiday music purchases, so I've taken the liberty of listing the tracks below: O Come, O Come Emmanuel Of the Father's Love Begotten Creator of the Stars of Night Lo, How a Rose e'er Blooming What Child is This? Huron Carol A Stable Lamp is Lighted Away in a Manger When Jesus Left His Father's Throne Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence In the Bleak Midwinter O Little Town of Bethlehem Silent Night I really enjoyed these choices of songs; they seem to flow somehow, unlike the smattering of tunes often heard on Christmas CDS. Like "Wondrous Love", this album is representative of the continuity of a strong Christian musical heritage from ancient times to the present. While the lyrics and music of most of these tunes were composed in the 19th century, some lyrics date back to the 4th century, with music composed in the 11th century. I encourage you to listen to clips from these recordings at Radio Angel. Both are available at Barnes & Noble Booksellers, Borders Books & Music Café, and Body Mind & Soul Books, Inc. CDS and cassettes may also be purchased on line at Radio Angel.” - Cory C. Engel

Celtic Christian Tunes

Wondrous Love is a collection of timeless Celtic and Appalachian hymns - old, haunting melodies that have slipped through many sets of lyrics, some for more than a thousand years, endlessly recreated by each new generation. Local artist Caroline Bowles is one of the current generation who reinterprets these hymns. One of the songs dates back to the 4th century and is attributed to St. Patrick, the patron saint of Ireland. Another is drawn from the ancient Liturgy of St. James set to a 17th century French folk tune. Her clear soprano vocals are accompanied by a variety of acoustic instruments, including guitar, cello, oboe, piano, violin, dulcimer, even bagpipes.”

— Body, Mind & Soul Quarterly Review

Christmas Carols: When I embarked upon reviewing this CD in July, I wondered just how I could begin to review a Christmas album in mid summer! How wrong I was, this CD is just so appealing right from the start. From the opening rich, warm synthesizers textures and dreamy new age backdrop of acoustic sounds, I couldn’t help but feel myself dissolve into relaxation with this album. Caroline’s voice has a certain warmth and comfort which makes her music so easy listening, especially for late nights and relaxation. The album has a beautiful classical new-age feel, combining the sweet natural beauty of strings, Steinway piano and acoustic guitar with beautiful dreamy keyboard textures and soft exotic percussion sounds. Don’t expect any up-tempo pop beats or ballads here; this is expressive heart warming music. Modern arrangements of centuries old hymns such as “Lo, How a Rose e’er Blooming” and “Huron Carol” combine sweet but warming vocal performances from Caroline with classical string sounds, delicate percussion, warm synthesizer textures and expressive acoustic guitar. A deeply expressive arrangement of “Away in a manger” contrasts bold highland bagpipes with soft harp, velvety strings and sensual vocals. Track 10 pushes forward the dreamy new age style once more, as soft cello lines, occasional haunting percussion and warm evocative synthesizer textures take the listener on a heavenly journey. The highland pipes are reintroduced in track 11, this time in chorus to accompany Caroline’s outstanding performance of “In the bleak midwinter”. The remainder of the album “O little town of Bethlehem” and “Silent Night” are again warm and sensible performances, featuring a Celtic harp backing and subtle strings. Combining vocal purity and sensual warmth with a soothing musical seascape of acoustic and electronic instruments, “ Christmas Carols” goes top of my list as seasonal late night listening and relaxation.” - Simon Williams


Radio Angel