Karan Casey  - “The Winds Begin To Sing” - Shanachie 78044

Karan Casey made her name with Irish-American band Solas on three acclaimed albums.  This is her second solo release, on which that remarkable voice is ably supported by not only regular musicians Ewan Vernal and John Doyle but also two of Manchester’s finest - flautist and piper Michael McGoldrick and fiddler Dezi Donnelly.

Most of the eleven songs are traditional, arranged by Casey and her musicians in a way which draws out their timeless power and doesn’t attempt to shoehorn the material into new and exciting styles for the sake of mere cleverness.  Casey and company know what they’re about, and it’s immediately obvious that we’re in safe hands; from the “Lord Randall” variant “Who Put The Blood” to a sensitive reading of the haunting “The Snows They Melt The Soonest” which rivals the definitive Dick Gaughan interpretation, these songs (to paraphrase Philip Larkin) don’t bother us.

Casey is also quite a judge of a good contemporary song.  She makes an excellent job of Andy M Stewart’s heartbreaking “Where Are You Tonight I Wonder” and the two John Spillane/Louis De Paor compositions; the ensemble playing on one of these, “Buile Mo Chroi”, is especially fine.  She only puts a foot wrong once.  The decision to tackle the Billie Holiday standard, “Strange Fruit”, was courageous but misguided; but then, I can’t think of any singer currently working on the folk scene (except, possibly, June Tabor) who could take on that peculiarly intense, intransigent piece and win.  It’s the only false note in a collection which can only enhance Karan Casey’s already considerable reputation.

Dave Tuxford

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This album was reviewed in Issue 45 of The Living Tradition magazine.