Mary Dillon and Heidi Talbot

Catching up on some Celtic Connections related items here’s our take on a couple of albums released by participants in this year’s shindig.
First up is Mary Dillon with North, a fairly traditional album of songs from this Northern Irish singer and sister of Cara Dillon. Mary was a member of Irish band Deanta way back in the nineties but retired from the music business for the past decade or so to raise her family. Stepping back into the fray North is a fine selection of mostly traditional songs on which she sings beautifully and is supported by a very talented group of musicians including former Deanta band mate Neil Martin who arranges the strings on the very affecting lament Edward On Lough Erne Shore. With all of the songs having a connection to Northern Ireland and having grown up with the majority of them Dillon seems to live and breathe by them and this is apparent in the delivery. Her voice appears as if out of a mist, clear as a bell, intimate and warm whether it be unaccompanied on the haunting Ard Ti Chuain which closes the album or the gently lilting and mildly ribald When’s A Man’s In Love which open the proceedings. This is an album that’s as warm as a glass of whiskey on a cold winter’s night, to be savoured and taken at one’s leisure.

Heidi Talbot chose to have the official release party of Angels Without Wings at Celtic Connections, fittingly enough as it was recorded in Glasgow’s new Gorbals Sound Studios. While she’s backed in the main by her regular band including husband John McCusker and Boo Hewerdine the album includes contributions from such luminaries as Jerry Douglas, Mark Knopfler, Tim O’Brien, Karine Polwart and King Creosote. While stellar line-ups don’t always guarantee a result Talbot has hit pay dirt here as the album is as swell a selection of modern folk songs as one could wish for. From the Hurdy Gurdy folksiness of the title song to the bare boned The Loneliest the playing is excellent and Talbot’s voice hits home with its childlike vulnerability. When The Roses Come Again is perhaps the most traditional sounding song here but the best is saved for last with two heart tugging songs, My Sister The Moon and Arcadia that are sumptuous and beguiling. Pillows of sound waft from the musicians while Talbot sounds vulnerable, cosseted by the very sympathetic playing. All in all a fine showing from a singer who deserves to be held in the same regard as Sandy Denny and Linda Thompson.

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