Six solo albums into her career (the official biog says it's five, curiously overlooking her 2002 self-titled debut) and her fourth after leaving Cherish The Ladies, the County Kildare-born singer-songwriter still has yet to find crossover mainstream success, but, nevertheless, remains very much a significant figure on the contemporary folk scene.
Produced by husband John McCusker, featuring contributions from Duke Special, Admiral Fallow's Louis Abbott, Michael McGoldrick and Boo Hewardine and with eight of the ten numbers self-penned. Talbot describes it as "measured and unhurried", with the songs reflecting "on birth, death and getting older." The title track opens proceeding, a sweetly sung, lilting traditional sounding, gospel-inpsired number about taking a leap into the unknown (death , actually) featuring harmonium before pizzicato violin makes an appearance, a similar musical mood and tempo informing Adam Holmes's "Time To Rest" (written and featuring vocals by Adam Holmes) with Innes White on mandolin accompaniment, McGoldrick on Uillean pipes and whistle, another song themed around mortality. The most obvious number on the theme is the waltzingly lovely "A Song For Rose (will you remember me)", written for her late mother when she fell sick and which interpolates lines from the traditional lullaby "I See The Moon", sung at the end by Talbot's eldest daughter, Molly.
Family, memories and time passing are oft entwined, as with "The Year That I Was Born", a track that moves beyond her Irish background to embrace more Appalachian colours with just acoustic guitar and Abbott on backing vocals, a flavour also tinting the reflective bluegrass psalm Tell Me "Do You Ever Think Of Me" with Andy Seward on muted banjo and McCusker bringing a hymnal tone on violin.
The staccato strummed slow march "Wedding Day", on the other hand, is firmly positioned in the English folk tradition with just a twinge of the blues, as, indeed, is the whistle and accordion accompanied "The Willow Tree" with its dappled ambience, tumbling chords and references to folk ballad "Lady Isabel And The Elf Knight". Her Irish heritage is a particular influence on the waltzing "Chelsea Piers", a homesickness song co-written with Belfast's Duke Special and inspired by The Pogues that, recalling her years in New York and haunted by aching violin and cello, leans more perhaps towards the vintage era of Laurel Canyon singer-songwriters. Given its yearning for home, it seems fitting that the album's other cover is her ukulele-accompanied reading of Natalie Merchant's waltzing prayer "Motherland".
The final track is "A Stranger To Me", a poignant slow-swelling song about finding yourself when lost, of support through the search for self and becoming who you are meant to be. Listening to this album, which, as she says, may touch on grief and depression but is equally heartening and hopeful, I think it's safe to say Talbot is very much is touch with who she is. So should you be.
|John Surman: Westering Home/Morning Glory||Hazeyjane: One|
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