Tuesday, 8 March 2011

Cara Dillon – review

"Cara Dillon has long been marked for great things. Raised near Derry in a hotbed of traditional Irish music, she won the All-Ireland Singing Trophy aged just 14, before later being recruited to replace Kate Rusby in the ill-fated manufactured folk super-group Equation alongside the three brothers Seth, Sam and Sean Lakeman. The last decade saw Dillon embrace more commercial folk-pop crossover material until a family crisis led her to retreat and re-embrace the Irish music icons, such as Planxty and the Bothy Band, that originally inspired her.
Last year's comeback, a set of covers of traditional songs called The Hill of Thieves, was voted album of the year at the BBC Folk awards. The album's crowning achievement is to render these venerable airs and laments contemporary and relevant, and Dillon's live show reflects the record's sparse, stripped-down arrangements.

Backed by husband Sam Lakeman on guitar and piano and a tight circle of bodhran-players and flautists, she sings with an intimacy that suggests the late-night craic sessions where she cut her teeth. It works because her voice is a thing of wonder: a warm yet precise tool that locks into the expansive humanity at the heart of these ancient songs. On Johnny, Lovely Johnny and Jimmy Mó Mhíle Stór, she superbly evokes the hollow ache of unrequited love, while her gentle reworking of the old standard P Is for Paddy is captivating."

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