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Private Label HCD01 

Subtitled Traditional Unaccompanied Singing From Ireland, an exact description of the contents, this CD is as straightforward and honest as its description suggests. No frills or fancy effects, no accompaniment – a purist’s dream. There are, of course, pluses and minuses to this approach.

The pluses are a fine singing voice and an excellent choice of classic songs, mainly from a Northern singing background. There are one or two interesting and slightly different versions of songs such as Brennan On The Moor and Lady Margaret, and virtually all the songs chosen will be familiar, many in versions recorded by some of the great singers from the nine counties.

It takes very considerable talent, experience and the ability to vary the delivery of a song to achieve the variety necessary to create an unaccompanied album that ‘works’, especially if one eschews the use of any studio effects. Listened to individually, Helen’s bright, clear singing does justice to most of the songs (although one or two sounded a bit rushed – but I’ll admit I’m one of the slowest singers I know), but the similarity of one track to another in terms of pace and pitch meant taking several listenings in order to hear it all properly.

However, it worked – after a while I did enjoy this recording as much as its contents listing suggested I might. Perhaps next time she ventures into a studio Helen might consider using some (but not too much) of the enhancement available, and possibly (whisper it!) persuade one or two of her talented family to provide some subtle accompaniment on the odd track?

John Waltham

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This album was reviewed in Issue 127 of The Living Tradition magazine.