In My Prime
If you’re going to name your album In My Prime, you’d better be prepared to deliver the goods, and Niamh Parsons does. Her pure, clear, warm tone and perfectly controlled delivery–moving effortlessly from a whisper to a room-filling crescendo–draws you in so deep you forget about everything except her lovely voice for as long as she sings. This album is a definite improvement over her last one, Blackbirds and Thrushes, though some of the instrumental arrangements here don’t do much for me. On several songs, for instance, the harmonica lent a corny country & western feel that just didn’t fit with the Irish material.
But when Niamh sings a cappella, as she does on several tracks, or duets with her sister Anne, the results can be magical. The title track is a perfect example, with Niamh and Anne harmonizing over a vocal drone of Niamh’s. The result is a haunting, almost mystical plaint of a young woman whose lover treated her falsely that I just can’t do justice to here; I could listen to it over and over and never tire of it.
Of the accompanied tracks, I preferred the sparser arrangements, with just Niamh’s voice and guitar or piano. The quietly desperate tale of a man whose lover loved another on “Green Grass It Grows Bonny” is a good example, though I have to say it’s hard to top Karan Casey’s heart-wrenching rendition of this song. Josephine Marsh’s fine accordion playing lends a jaunty accompaniment to Niamh’s delivery of the tale of hard-drinking, fun-loving “Bold Doherty,” and blends well with mournful piano and mandolin on Andy M. Stewart’s song “Orphan’s Wedding.”
All in all, a fine set of traditional Irish songs beautifully sung.
Green Linnet Records, 43 Beaver Brook Rd., Danbury, CT 06810; http://www.greenlinnet.com