Janet Holmes,
The Road to the West
(Market Square, 2004)

Janet Holmes was born and raised in Belfast. She first appeared on stage at age 14 and has not given up the limelight since. She started out on the rock-gospel circuit but has moved into a more contemporary folk idiom in recent years. In 2000, she was invited to front a band for the Bert Jansch Encomium, and the rest as they say is recent history, culminating in this excellent release.

The album has a mixture of works by some new and more established writers. Holmes shows her ability to provide her own style on other people's work with a great version of Lyle Lovett's "If I Had a Boat."

Another of the tracks comes from the pen of one of Ireland's most underrated writer/performers. Terry Woods has been pivotal in the folk scene from the Woods Band through Sweeney's Men and Steeleye Span. Holmes takes his track "Dreams" to new heights in a very gutsy performance.

The most represented writer on the album is Colin Harper, who performs on the album and also provided the liner notes. The most impressive of his pieces is "Letting Go," which is belted out with some vigorous backing. Harper would like us to realise that this track was originally written some years ago -- before he heard of the Corrs. That gives you an idea of the style on this track. An interesting point of note here is that one of the musicians on the track is a chap called Martin Hayes of Ireland, now based in Seattle -- and he is playing acoustic and electric guitars rather than his fiddle.

I particularly liked the track "Love Will Keep Us Alive" as Holmes goes into a more quiet and soulful mode. Again showing the breadth of influences and styles, she moves on to a track from the Smiths with "How Soon is Now?"

All 12 tracks on offer here are top class but it is number 12 that proved my absolute favourite. The composer is Isaac Guillroy and the title is "Thanksgiving Eve." Here is a song that showcases Holmes' voice with backing only on Dobro. Given sufficient airplay this could allow her burst on to the wider music scene.

It is elementary, my dear Watson and others -- Holmes is a name and an artist to note and to hear.

- Rambles
written by Nicky Rossiter
published 9 October 2004