Emily Smith - A Different Life

EMILY SMITH - A Different Life
White Fall Records WFRCD01

What a follow-up to her debut album! A Different Life elevates Emily Smith to the same Celtic singer-songwriter super-league as her female contemporaries Kate Rusby, Cara Dillon and Karan Casey, and confirms why she was chosen as BBC Young Traditional Musician Award winner for 2002.

Smith has weathered recent band changes to produce an album of startling beauty, eminently listenable from start to finish. She's written new original songs: Always A Smile, a lovely (and moving) tribute to her Polish grandmother. She's written the cheery Go To Town because she couldn't find a traditional song with a happy ending! Her instrumental composition, Bonny Baby Kate, is the perfect showcase for Smith's fine piano playing and features Andy Saunders on French horn, Jonna Inge on viola, and Sarah Murray on cello.

Possessing one of the clearest, truest voices in Celtic music, Smith covers excellent traditional songs too. Outstanding are The Bonny Labouring Boy and The Lochmaben Harper - supremely lyrical, and characterised by Smith's assured touch on accordion, and McClennan's graceful fiddle. Flook's Brian Finnegan is phenomenal on flutes/whistles, and Malinky's Steve Byrne excels on all things stringed. Lizzie Higgins' Far O'er The Forth makes a very welcome appearance. It's sung unaccompanied, with excellent vocal timing. Bob McNeill's Strong Winds For Autumn is structured around the brightest acoustic guitar playing and beautifully emotive cello and viola.

New Zealander Jamie McClennan writes blistering fiddle tunes, and doesn't disappoint here, with a couple of brilliant dance sets - The Tressle Bridge and The Salt Necklace, tunes that allow percussionists Paul Jennings and Martin O'Neill to pack in the rhythm.

Co-produced by Emily Smith and Joe Rusby, the album's emphasis is on uncluttered, lyrical arrangements, and the vocals and instrumentation are quite simply beautiful.

Debbie Koritsas

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This album was reviewed in Issue 61 of The Living Tradition magazine.