Cathy Jordan, All the Way Home (Blix Street Records, 2012)
Dervish front-woman, Cathy Jordan finally presents her eagerly anticipated debut solo album. A more sparse offering than the vibrant sounds produced by Dervish, All The Way Home presents an opportunity to focus on Jordan's vocal prowess, and it's an opportunity that rewards the listener handsomely. A largely subdued affair, with some inspired and original interpretations of familiar traditional material, it frequently allows Jordan the opportunity to demonstrate a subtle yet utterly disarming potency.
Minimal accompaniment alongside a sparse but determined vocal restores the humanity and poignancy to stories that have long been lost within the high jinx of beer-swilling, bawdy sing-alongs. Suddenly, "Bold Fenian Men" is less a triumphant celebration of rebellion, and more a moving personal recollection of individual characters, their families and the heart-wrenching realities of a lifetime's struggle. "Eileen McMahon" is delivered as a beautifully sumptuous duet with Eddi Reader, and yields a similarly unique and solitary tale, making a devastatingly stirring impression.
With lyrics built from the excerpts of a Patrick Devine poem, "In Curraghroe" is worth singling out, offering an insight in to the loneliness of rural life alongside the rapturous joys of the sights, sounds and smells of the surrounding landscape.
There are moments of exuberance here too, nestled amongst the earnest memories. Punctuating the more candid, personal tales are a few instrumental tracks featuring contemporary compositions, written firmly within the Irish traditional style, that speak of life's pleasures with a spirit and energy that words could not match. "Ould Ballymoe" takes a fair shot at this however, offering a carefree and colourful vignette of village life.
Jordan's voice is instantly recognisable, with a diction and tone that maintains her Irish accent prominently, contributing to her distinctive, unique sound. The very fact that Jordan's voice alone has so much to offer means that the "less is more" maxim is certainly something that works well for her, and further exploration of the more stripped-back production that works so well here would doubtlessly produce a timeless, attractive and edifying body of work.