Heidi Talbot,
The Last Star
(Compass, 2010)

Heidi Talbot has a talent for choosing excellent songs to showcase her distinctive voice, as evidenced on The Last Star.

The traditional epic 'Willie Taylor" opens this wonderful album and you can hear and understand every word, as is essential on these stories set to music. "Tell Me Truly" has an unusual sound signature that will intrigue the listener but should never distract them from the lyrics that are so beautifully crafted and realized. The multiple voices on later verses add immensely to an already perfect track.

As you may derive from the title, "Hang Me" is a rather unusual song for a young lady to sing. Apparently, the rather morbid lyrics are traditional set to a new melody. "The Shepherd Lad" is also a matter of old lyrics with new music. It is lovely, naughty song that can only remind us that earlier generations were far from the prudish clan we often imagine. "Sally Brown" sounds to be an old shanty, and in many ways it, too, reminds us of our bawdy past.

Talbot shows her writing talent on the title track, "The Last Star," which is a beautifully simple love song.

I cued up "Bantry Girls," knowing it was the song perhaps better known with lament in the title. This is one of the finest songs of the folk canon, combining a perfect tune with well-turned lyrics. Talbot does not disappoint. Hers is yet another beautiful version to be added to the list.

Her voice is unbelievably suited to the perky "Bleecker Street," another song telling a story worth listening to with close attention. It's a tale told in many another song but this arrangement is a wonder.

One of my favourite tracks combines the lyrics of Karine Polwart, music by John McCusker and the voice of Heidi Talbot. It is the stunningly beautiful "Start It All Over Again." The combination is one of those magical blends that moves the listener on all levels.

The album closes with a song from the pen of the legendary Sandy Denny and it is fitting that "At the End of the Day" is performed by this outstanding talent, whose choices and performances on this CD mark her out a true star of the genre.

music review by
Nicky Rossiter

14 May 2011

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