Thursday, September 23, 2010

The Last Star: Heidi Talbot

There are several quite lovely threads that weave through Heidi Talbot’s recording The Last Star. Talbot’s voice and her gifts as a musical storyteller form a bright skein bringing together songs from past and present, tales of humor and sorrow, and characters foolish and wise.

Each of those characters is somehow involved with love: that’s another thread. It might be of the rambling and funny sort, in the song Bleecker Street, for example, or a traditional tale that starts out one way and ends in quite another, in Willie Taylor. On the other hand, it could be a tale of love, loss, family, and change, as in Cherokee Rose, or a quiet bit of reflection as in The Last Star.

Another bit of the tapestry Talbot offers is the fine arrangements and excellent support from backing players including Kris Drever, John McCusker (who produced the album), Eddi Reader, Michael McGoldrick, and Karine Polwart. There’s no doubt that Talbot can well center a project which includes such a range of top notch musicians; there is equally no doubt that they bring out fine talents to support her, offering contributions which reveal more with each listening.

As does the whole album itself. Talbot, who spent five years as lead singer with the top Irish American band Cherish the Ladies, has been building her solo career for some while now -- this is her third solo disc -- and with each project she becomes at once more adventurous and at the same time more focused in her song choices and in her way of singing them. This time, these choices have led her to a strong helping of music from the tradition, as well as several well chosen contemporary songs. The centerpiece of the album, both musically and emotionally, could well be the title track, The Last Star, which is a thoughtful, mature reflection on some the harder lessons of love and change. Talbot wrote this one herself, and the very spare arrangement fits the quiet mood of the song exactly. Another stand out, on the quieter side of things, is Scottish songwriter Karine Polwart’s Start it Over Again. If you are looking for a lively bit of style that’ll have you singing along, Talbot weaves the sea chanty Sally Brown into the mix, and you can waltz along to Tell Me Truly, which is one of those songs which contrasts sad lyrics with happy melody.

The Last Star is a fine recording altogether, one which leaves you feeling as though you’ve just had an interesting, at times funny, at times thoughtful, always engaging conversation with a friend, a conversation to which you will choose to return again.

Talbot, who is from Ireland, is based these days in Edinburgh. She tours often in the UK and Ireland, and in December she and McCusker will be appearing at several concerts in New England as part of the Christmas Celtic Sojourn program. If you should have the chance to see them live take it. You’ll be well rewarded.



you may also wish to see
Music Road: heidi talbot: in love+light
Music Road: Voices: Cherish the Ladies
Music Road: Julie Fowlis:Uam

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posted by Kerry Dexter at

9 Comments:

Anonymous Vera Marie Badertscher said...

I really love this description! Well done!

'one which leaves you feeling as though you’ve just had an interesting, at times funny, at times thoughtful, always engaging conversation with a friend, a conversation to which you will choose to return again.'

1:16 PM  
OpenID marthaandme said...

Sounds like quite a well put together album!

11:07 AM  
Anonymous sarah henry said...

kerry, i have two really good friends, both irish gals who love to listen to music from their home country. must send them your way.

i think they'd love what you do here.

1:58 AM  
Anonymous Frugal Kiwi said...

I've been a fan of Heidi's for many years. Hearing about her 3rd solo album is fabulous.

3:40 PM  
Anonymous Alexandra said...

Your masterful review really made me want to buy this album! Thanks for this introduction to Heidi Talbot.

3:50 PM  
Anonymous MyKidsEatSquid said...

Interesting review--so it sounds like she doesn't tour in the U.S. very often then?

9:06 AM  
Blogger kerry dexter said...

MKES,
she'd like to, I think -- she has many US fans from her days with Cherish and lived in the US for a several years -- but I think the logistics aren't working out just now. perhaps something will develop with this new album out.

4:59 PM  
Anonymous Casey said...

Took a listen on her myspace page - what gorgeously introspective music!

10:05 AM  
Anonymous Alisa Bowman said...

This is just beautiful writing:

"The Last Star is a fine recording altogether, one which leaves you feeling as though you’ve just had an interesting, at times funny, at times thoughtful, always engaging conversation with a friend, a conversation to which you will choose to return again."

Just beautiful.

6:28 PM  

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