Muireann Nic Amhlaoibh
Daybreak: Fáinne an Lae
Compass Records 7 4428 2; 46 minutes; 2006
The honey-toned singer with Danú’s debut album is an odd kettle of fish, illustrative of the inherent pitfalls of self-production. There’s no doubting the eloquence of Kerry-born Muireann’s voice or her intuitive ability to convey the emotions of her chosen songs’ lyrics, but questions might be raised about the suitability of her song selections and their accompanying instrumental arrangements.
All those doubts are encapsulated by the opening track, Gerry O’Beirne’s Western Highway, a song forever associated in Ireland with Maura O’Connell. Yet, Muireann’s rendition is firmly grounded within that MoR territory inhabited by the Black sisters and the accompaniment drifts into fragmentation.
Indeed, it’s Mary Black’s province in particular where Muireann seems to want to build her song cottage, as evinced by the sweeter than saccharin lullaby Seoithín Seothó, a somewhat lacklustre reading of Richard Thompson’s Persuasion and a version of The Banks of the Nile which pays perhaps too much homage to Sandy Denny.
That said, there’s still plenty here to delight listeners, including, not least, a captivating Slán le Máigh that simply puts the ‘f’ into ‘forlorn’ and another tremendous Irish-language song An Spealadóir, jauntier than a ride in a jarvey’s carriage. However, it’s telling that the two most effective songs on Daybreak are both sung in Irish, suggesting that Muireann feels far more expressive within that medium.
A couple of instrumental sets, featuring Muireann’s whistle and flute provide brief and pleasant interludes, but have the feel of fillers. Overall, better song selection might have made Daybreak a more effective debut.
This review by Geoff Wallis originally appeared in Songlines magazine – www.songlines.co.uk.
The singer’s website is www.muireann.ie.
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