As one of the finest and most celebrated singers in Irish Folk music, Cara Dillon needs little introduction from me. Suffice to say that she has won multiple awards including a BBC Radio 2 Folk Award [ Album of The Year] in 2010 for her album "Hill of Thieves" , the same year that she had two songs featured on a Walt Disney film soundtrack and gave birth to her third child!
Cara has just released her seventh album "Wanderer" ,which ,as with her previous albums is a collaborative effort with her husband/musical partner/ arranger /producer Sam Lakeman, who also needs no introduction. The couple married in 2002 and live in Frome, Somerset but Cara , of course, is originally from Dungiven,County Londonderry and this new album is a collection of songs on the theme of departure from the place where one grew up and separation from loved ones , whether by emigration, desertion or even death.
There is a common thread running through all of the ten songs on the album, namely, water, whether it be rivers [ the Bann, the Foyle, the Faughan and the Tweed all make an appearance] , lakes or the sea . Several of the songs are located in places close to where Cara grew up and she says that it is particularly emotional for her to sing them.
The theme of wanting to return to one's home appears right from the first song ,in which the narrator longs "for to follow the Tern and the Swallow where Bann and black water sweep down to Lough Neagh", for their final journey.
In "The Leaving Song" , Cara reflects on her mother's memories of "living wakes" ,which would be held on the occasion of a member of the family emigrating abroad . Again the theme of water runs through the song : "These Northern lights shine ,love reflect on the Foyle ,they'll light you way back to your own native soil". The other original song on the album ,written by Cara and Sam , is "Lakeside Swans", which refers to the plight of refugees forced to flee poverty across the Mediterranean, echoing the migrations from Ireland in the past , by those who have "wings that have to fly".
The water-themed album features some well-known traditional songs , such as "Blackwater Side", "The Banks of the Bann" and "Sailor Boy"[ a fine duet with Kris Drever], as well as some less-well known ones from Ulster ,namely "The Banks of the Foyle" and "The Faughan Side".
Although it sounds like a traditional song, "Dubhdara" was ,in fact,written by Shaun Davey for his 1985 album "Granuaile". The song is sung from the perspective of a lover who is waiting on "the white shell sand" for her sailor to return "to take me up in his arms".
Needless to say Cara's singing throughout the album is immaculate ,as ever ,as are the musical settings by Sam ,who adopts a "less is more" approach ,with simple acoustic guitar and piano arrangements, which allow the songs to breathe. Tasteful double bass is provided by King of the South Seas' Ben Nicholls ,whilst John Smith adds some lovely guitar and vocals to "The Banks of the Foyle".
Robert Plant's go-to guitar player Justin Adams provides understated, atmospheric electric guitar to several tracks, particularly "Dubhdara" , whilst All-Ireland Fiddle Champion Niall Murphy adds some Celtic flourishes ,especially on "The Banks of the Bann".
In summary, this is a beautifully sung, played and produced album ,which has a distinct , cohesive thread running through it and which is both thoughtful and emotional. "Wanderer" confirms Cara Dillon's status as one of the truly great female Irish folksingers.
Peter CowleyFatea recently interviewed Cara Dillion, it can be found at http://www.fatea-records.co.uk/magazine/news/CaraDillonInt/
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