Irish doctor with too many thoughts, too little time and a blog that's supposed to check in on reality.

Monday, April 03, 2006

The Best of Albums, The Worst of Albums

And they’re in-laws.
My 2 most-looked-forward purchases of recent months are actually brother and sister-in-law – Seth Lakeman and Cara Dillon.
Derry singer, Cara Dillon is married to Sam Lakeman, who doubles as her producer, Seth Lakeman’s brother. Both have new albums out – Dillon’s “After the Morning” and Lakeman’s “Freedom Fields”.
There is really no comparison – Dillon is an amazing singer with an extraordinarily beautiful voice and an insipid album that I regret spending money on. Seth Lakeman’s album is one that I will be playing in 50 years.
Lakeman was nominated for a Mercury Music Prize for his album “Kitty Jay”, which was fresh folk sung by an English guy with an English accent who plays the fiddle, guitar and writes his own songs. But his songs, unlike the Streets or the Artic Monkeys, are not about nightclubs or drying your eyes out mate (I hate that song!), but like Richard Shindell, Lakeman writes about ye olden times with a contemporary relevance that enthralls.
But unlike Damien Rice, Dempsey or any other of these new folk/acoustic/singer-songwriters from these islands, Lakeman is an original, singing his own songs about, well, “Freedom Fields” is about the 1643 Civil War. And he sings about it like he was there. (I doubt Damien Rice could even spell 1643.) He plays the violin like he means it. The production is immaculate and the album was made in his Devon kitchen. The drums are reminiscent of red-coated garrison men, marching with the sun reflected in their brass buttons, before their canons explode. He sings about mermaids, mariners, riflemen, soldiers who came “a courtin a maid, took her home, stole her beauty, took no gold” and the like. Unfortunately itunes don’t provide lyrics, so I will probably get the hardcopy in few weeks if I haven’t figured the epic stories that form his songs.
Perhaps Cara Dillon’s only redeeming feature is that she provides some great harmonies on Seth’s album.
But there it stops. Her first 2 albums were excellent – her voice stunning, the songs suited her, the arrangements suited the songs. All was good in my ears. So “After the Morning” had something to live up to – especially after I read the reviews on amazon, where they talked about bluegrass influences, and Paul Brady’s “performance of his life” in a duet on “The Streets of Derry”. The bluegrass influences were negligible, and if that’s the best Brady’s capable of, there’s hope for all us yet as singer-songwriters outside of the shower.
The first song “Never in a Million Years” is okay, I suppose. “October Winds” was written for Dillon’s father – it’s actually quite moving. But that’s it. The other song possibly worth re-listening to is a cover of Dougie MacLean’s “The Garden Valley”. About half way through the song, I thought there was something wrong with my CD player. I thought I was listening to Cathie Ryan’s version, only that Ryan does it better. Her Detroit immigrant background adds umph to lines like “I'm afraid and all alone / There is no peace for me / And I'm sitting in the stranger's room / Playing at the stranger's table / Shining empty like the moon”. Whilst Cara Dillon could have been singing about the back of an All Bran box, albeit in a clichéd “voice of an angel”.



Blogger Colm said...

Heading to see Seth Lakeman tomorrow night myself in Islington. Should be good.

April 03, 2006 9:46 a.m.  
Blogger Auds said...

Am a little jealous Colm. Especially if it's a solo gig.
He's supporting Billy Bragg in Vicar St on the "Peace, love and hope" tour or something, which sounds a tad sanctimonous for me!

April 03, 2006 10:05 a.m.  
Blogger Colm said...

I like Billy Bragg ... sometimes. But he has some song out now with the Guardian for a Palestinian activist who killed a while back and it's truly awful. Sanctimonious is the word alright.

April 03, 2006 10:13 a.m.  
Blogger Auds said...

I heard about that song, but didn't hear the song.
I have Bragg's albums with Wilco which are really good, but anything else....

Enjoy the concert - tell all after!

April 03, 2006 10:15 a.m.  

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