Niamh de Búrca


Where Your Heart Lies


Gael Linn CEFCD 186; 51 minutes; 2005


Truth be told, it’s only in Ireland nowadays that a major label (and Gael Linn does retain that status despite its exigencies over the last few years) would consider releasing an album such as this. Despite all the musical developments that have taken place over the last few decades there still remains an astonishingly large market (at least in Irish terms, with seasonal tourist adjustment) for the maudlin, the melancholy, the ‘ethereal’ and sheer old-fashioned schlock.


Anyone who has been fortunate to hear Niamh sing will know that she possesses one of Ireland’s finest voices, but said larynx is thoroughly demeaned here by over-production, courtesy of Máire Breatnach, middle-of-the-road arrangements, which often utterly emasculate the import of her chosen songs’ lyrics, and an overall sugary texture which saps the listener’s spirit.


While her voice’s qualities cannot be doubted, neither can the value, on paper at least, of the supporting cast of musicians which includes Mick O’Brien on pipes, Breatnach herself on fiddle and viola, and a plethora of guitarists, such as Altan’s Mark Kelly, Bill Shanley and Mick Giblin. However, as a football manager once notably commented, “We don’t play games on paper, we play games on grass”. The musical formations might be correct on Where Your Heart Lies, but the tactics are lacking.


As any budding dramatist should well know, ‘the play’s the thing’ and, no matter how strong the particular script might be (and this one includes songs such as Ye Lovers All, Barr a’ tSléibhe and Farewell Dearest Nancy), it’s the actual production which counts most in the end. Sadly, such here fails to deliver an appropriate context.


One other point should be made in these times when Irish labels are charging €18 or more for an album. A flimsy four-page liner insert is simply not satisfactory, especially when the text only consists of the singer’s acknowledgments, an explanation of the album’s title and a cast list.


Geoff Wallis


9th August, 2006



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