Own label, MCM-CD-002; 37 minutes; 2008
‘A major new talent emerges’ screams the blurb accompanying this debut album by the singer from Dungiven in County Derry who replaced Cara Dillon in Óige who, on the evidence of this recording, remains firmly in her predecessor’s shadow.
An old friend of mine once came up with the concept of ‘wine bar music’ which she defined as ‘lacking any subtlety whatsoever, but geared completely to providing the aural background equivalent of an Andrex puppy; in other words, nothing dangerous enough to deter you from ordering another bottle’ (or words to that effect, and she reckoned Sade’s Diamond Life represented said genre’s apogee). Now Ireland is not replete with wine bars, but it does have a long-standing reputation for producing kitsch – ‘welcome to schlockamorra’, as one writer put it. Unfortunately, Maranna’s debut falls squarely into that category.
It is absolutely apparent that Maranna has listened closely to Cara Dillon’s recordings, but utterly failed to grasp the nuances of the singer’s interpretations or the sympathetic production values she and Sam Lakeman share. As a consequence, several songs on this CD sound like Cara out-takes, early efforts which were rightly discarded – look to a cloying rendition of The Home I Left Behind.
Sure, Maranna can certainly sing (listen to The Verdant Braes of Screen [sic] for example), but, as often happens on a debut album, she wears too many influences on her sleeve (Susan McKeown and Mary Black spring immediately to mind) and it really does not help that her choice of backing musicians seem to have little understanding of Irish music or how to accompany Irish songs. Moreover, there are at least two tracks which are guaranteed entry into the Irish Hall of Iniquity: an horrendous whistle/synth rendition of something called The Cashel Air; and a completely gauche, sax-riff-filled take on Maranna’s own song Fraser Island.
Great voice – shame about the album.
8th June, 2009
For more information visit www.marannamccloskey.com.