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Heidi Talbot

Venue: Queen's Hall
Town: Edinburgh
Date: 30/9/16

Singer-songwriter Heidi Talbot hails from County Kildare originally, but she is now happily settled in Scotland with her musical partner and husband, John McCusker, and their two young daughters. An extended break from recording and touring gave Heidi an opportunity not only to focus on family matters but also to write a number of new songs, some with co-writers, including Louis Abbott, Adam Holmes, Duke Special and regular collaborator, Boo Hewerdine. Before long, there was enough material for a new album and 10 days in the studio during May of this year resulted in the late-September release of Heidi's fourth solo album, "Here We Go 1, 2, 3".

The second gig of the tour to promote the new album saw Heidi Talbot make a welcome return to the Queen's Hall in Edinburgh on 30th September. As usual, she had assembled a multi-talented band, consisting of John McCusker (fiddle, whistle, cittern and harmonium), Toby Shaer (whistles, flute, harmonium and fiddle), Innes White (guitar and mandolin), Sorren Maclean (electric and acoustic guitar) and Toby Shippey (trumpet). There was also a special guest, in the form of Admiral Fallow's Louis Abbott (vocals and guitar).

The show started strongly with the gentle lilt of "Here We Go 1, 2, 3", featuring delicate interplay between the musicians, pure and graceful vocals from Heidi Talbot and an elegant fiddle solo from John McCusker. The tender and soulful "Time To Rest" (written by Adam Holmes) was an early highlight, starting out in restrained, almost hymn-like, fashion and building steadily towards a sparkling whistle solo, before breaking out into a joyous jig to finish. This song also provided the first of many examples of the exceptional vocal chemistry between Heidi and Louis Abbott, as they harmonised and duetted gloriously.

Heidi introduced us to many more highlights from the new album, including the wistful nostalgia of "The Year That I was Born", with Heidi once again duetting beautifully with Louis, over gently-picked guitar and a shuffling beat ("Today I found a photograph, you're laughing in the sun. A smile that saw the road ahead, you both looked so young…"). "The Wedding Day" took the form of a sprightly Cajun strut, underpinned by moody, muted trumpet. Heidi and the band fairly romped through the traditional cautionary tale "The Willow Tree", which set up an irresistible rhythm and featured a fiery instrumental break, with whistles and trumpet to the fore.

Heidi Talbot also served up some gems from her back catalogue, notably the spirited traditional song "Dearest Johnny", the achingly beautiful Louis Abbott composition, "The Loneliest", and, as an encore, the joyful Tim O'Brien song "Music Tree", which drew enthusiastic audience participation on the choruses.

Each of the two sets included instrumental interludes, during which Heidi and Louis took breaks while the other musicians displayed the full range of their musical chops in an exhilirating series of reels, airs and jigs.

Heidi Talbot's choice of Louis Abbott as a special guest was inspired. Not only was his voice the perfect foil for Heidi's, but he also treated us to folk-flavoured arrangements of two Admiral Fallow classics, "Dead Against Smoking" and the anthemic "Isn't This World Enough??".

Towards the end of the second set, Heidi's heartfelt and emotional tribute to her late mother, "A Song For Rose (Will You Remember Me)", featured more stunning vocal harmonies and an elegant, extended instrumental break, led by John's plaintive fiddle. As if all of this this wasn't enough to bring a tear to the eye of this reviewer, Heidi and the band were joined onstage by the older of her young daughters, Molly Mae (resplendent in a Minnie Mouse costume) to join in the singing on the moving final chorus ("I hear a song that she sang just for me, I see the moon and the moon sees me. A flickering candle, the Lord is with thee, you know I'll do anything…").

This was a concert of wonderful singing and supreme musicianship. Heidi Talbot has clearly returned from her career break stronger than ever, in terms of both her growing maturity as a song-writer and her ability to make a strong connection with a live audience through her exquisite singing voice and warm and charming stage presence. Heidi's new album is highly recommended.

David Ferguson

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