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Janet Dowd Janet Dowd
Album: Home
Label: Blue Cow
Tracks: 10

Home is the Co. Armagh singer's third release, and follows nicely on the success of albums one and two, 300 Miles (2010) and Sailing Away (2013) respectively. Why depart from a winning formula? Well, it's not so much a formula, more a particular kind of approach I guess, but it certainly delivers a perfectly amenable, accessible record that is sure to give pleasure to lovers of good songs well sung and blessed with a capable and eminently listener-friendly musical backdrop.

The appealing nature of Janet's full-toned, harmonious singing is a given throughout the ten songs chosen for this collection, which all ideally suit her voice and range. The first three items on the disc illustrate this par excellence - Eric Bogle's All The Fine Young Men, Tommy Sands' County Down and Dougie Maclean's Garden Valley. And you won't hear more classy versions than these, with polished, thoroughly pleasing acoustic country-tinged settings that feature the talents of Colin Henry (dobro), Jimmy Higgins (percussion), Tom Leary and Niamh Varian Barry (fiddles), Alan Doherty (whistles), Donogh Hennessy (guitars, bass, programming), Martin Brunsden (double bass), Dessie Kelleher (banjo), Brendan Goff (piano), and Pauline Scanlon and Teresa Horgan (backing vocals).

Perhaps the remainder of the covers don't quite rise up to the same standard, but they're good solid choices nevertheless - from the pens of Brendan Graham (My Land), Josh Cunningham (Lighthouse) and Finbar Magee (My Belfast Love). The album also contains three songs written by Janet herself; these display a keen awareness of what makes a good song, and she's clearly learnt much from the masters. A Simple Life is a touching and sincere appreciation of just that, whereas Westport Town pays tribute to that beautiful part of Ireland and Forbidden Love tells the story of a secret tryst between two lovers in Carrickfergus. There's also a traditional song - SĂșil A RĂșin - but this seems to drag a little at six minutes, nicely sung and arranged though it may be.

All in all, this album is a heartfelt and genuine collection that satisfies in its treatment of the theme of home. It provides a pleasant and undemanding listen, and forms no challenge to the listener; ok, that's never a bad thing of course, although it's all perhaps a touch too "nice" and I feel it could've benefitted from some contrast between the chosen items.

David Kidman