Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Let The Truth Be Told...

I guess that being hailed as one of the "next big things" is a double-edged sword and there have been plenty as we go into 2009. It is a problem for artists as, although it provides the oxygen of publicity, it increases the pressure and raises expectations. Raised expectations can affect the prospective listener too. We all know the pleasure to be found in hearing a previously unheard-of artist only to discover that they are the 'best thing ever'. To be frequently told the very same thing, in advance of listening, can make that experience - when it comes - slightly underwhelming. This album was starting to run that risk, at least as far as I am concerned, and it is not released until 18 May in the UK and 16 June in the US, so that is why I mentioned some weeks ago that I had got hold of a US copy of the 12" single 'From My Heart To Yours'.

It went some way towards convincing me that I was not about to be disappointed and now that I have a promotional copy of the whole album I can say that my optimism is more than vindicated. It is common at points such as this to say that the artist evokes sounds like those of 'so-and-so' to provide a touchstone to readers. In this case I am deliberately not going to do so and for two reasons. This is not the genre of music I predominantly listen to and, perhaps more importantly, coming to it without preconceptions this just seems to be a complete album rather than a mere collection of radio and download friendly titbits for music magpies.

It starts with the UK lead single 'Shine' and that starts with the following lines...

Waking up one morning you realise
Your life is just one big compromise.

Another aspect of the whole album is that it sounds so natural and mature - in the sense that it never seems to be anything other than itself. There are no vocal histrionics, just the voice that has already earned her, in a country that rightly takes much pride in its multi-stranded musical heritage, the title 'The Soul of Ireland' and that can hardly be intended as anything but a compliment albeit a typically sly-humoured one. The restrained backing arrangements and production are spot on. They do not attempt to upstage the artist and the material, neither do they consciously seek to hark back to earlier times and styles. I haven't noticed any faux-vinyl crackle but, that said, I can only imagine how good it will sound on vinyl (hint: Atlantic) and I'll be buying that when it becomes available. At ten tracks and about thirty-eight minutes it is not long; it sensibly eschews any kind of filler that has spoiled many an otherwise fine album.

Live? Again her reputation precedes her - likely one of the most sought-after festival artists of 2009-10.

My favourite songs? Well that's a hard question but currently these three:
  • Don't Stay
  • The Worst is Over
  • Mmm...
Ask me again next week and it will quite likely be three others and that is always a sign of a good album.
As well as big predictions 2009 has already proven to contain a treasure-trove of excellent albums and this is certainly one of them. I have a prediction: this will be in the music industry award shortlists in the coming year, very possibly on both sides of the Atlantic. My one reservation is that, as this is a d├ębut album, how is she going to better it?
It is however, as 2009 has already shown, actually quite possible!

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