Muireann Nic Amhlaoibh - Daybreak: Fáinne an Lae
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Muireann Nic Amhlaoibh
Daybreak: Fáinne an Lae
Compass Records (

After two records with Danú, and songs on a record in which each band member made separate contributions, this is the logical next step. Like Sandy Denny, Muireann Nic Amhlaoibh also entered a young ensemble of talented musicians and steered it in a more accessible, if less daring, direction. Like Denny, she possesses a clear, pleasant, and steady voice suited to both traditional and MOR soft rock tunes. Also, she favors interpretations of efforts by contemporary songwriters along with a selection of traditional and traditionally-inspired tracks. Fairport Convention moved under Denny first into folk-rock and then continued with it even as Denny grew restless and left to craft a folk-pop blend suiting her gentle delivery. Suitably, this album includes the traditional song "The Banks of the Nile," first made famous when Denny covered it with her post-Fairport mates in Fotheringay. Nic Amhlaoibh has shifted Danú from a fiery, all-male traditional group into a band whose songs increasingly resembled Denny's own more intimate solo work. Gerry O'Beirne plays guitar on the two tracks he wrote, "Western Highway," which as sung by Maura O'Connell had appeared on the RTÉ 'Bringing It All Back Home' series and album, and "The Isle of Malachy." "Persuasion," written by Richard Thompson and Tim Finn, likewise continues the association of Fairport and contemporary singer-songwriter folk-rockers with her own intentions to make an album still rooted in mostly traditional songs, both in English and Irish, but with enough popular tunes to appeal to a wider audience. Nic Amhlaoibh's versions recall O'Connell in her wistful, almost casual approach. The songs on Daybreak avoid drama, and Nic Amhlaoibh is content to create more of a lingering sense of calm. Despite the presence of Shane McGowan's guitar on five tracks, little intensity emerges. This is a consistent and polished album, but designed for those listeners seeking less concentration on only traditional Irish tunes, while not as dramatic a shift into MOR as earlier singers as Denny and O'Connell themselves made in earlier decades. But Nic Amhlaoibh's next album, if judging from the sheen applied to this self-produced collection, may reveal such a transition from trad to folk to pop. - John L. Murphy

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