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Éilís Kennedy comes from and still lives in Dingle in the far west of Ireland. She is half of Lumiere with Pauline Scanlon and Westward is her third solo album. Éilís is a much travelled artist and the album mixes music from both sides of the Atlantic in both English and Gaelic.
The opening track is an exception to the pattern. It’s Bill Caddick’s ‘John O’Dreams’ which is a difficult choice given that Bill performs it on a unison-tuned 10-string English guitar to produce that unique sound. Éilís, of course, starts again with co-producer William Coulter on guitar and Barry Phillips’ cello producing a rich, smooth sound to support her clear voice and exquisite diction. She makes you listen to the song with new ears and that is quite a feat.
Second up is ‘An tÚll’ an old song from the west of Ireland featuring Kevin Burke on fiddle and Jesse Autumn’s harp which reappears on the beautiful ‘Cailin Mo Rúin-Sa’, a Scots Gaelic song by Donald Ross. From West Virginia comes the gentle country of ‘The Elk River Dam’ and Gordon Bok’s ‘Hills Of Isle Au Haut’ comes from his time as mate on a Brixham trawler!
Éilís turns her hand to songwriting for the first time. First comes ‘Highway Mack’ describing a journey on the Pacific Highway in a Californian style and that is followed by ‘The Flannel Red’, a very Irish song inspired by the story of Éilís’ great grandfather who drowned near Dingle. The title refers to a local superstition and the song is given an almost orchestral arrangement with violin, cello and accordion. Two traditional songs follow. ‘The Saucy Sailor’ is well known and is decorated here by Cor Anglais provided by Shelley Phillips. ‘Will Ye Go To The Indies, My Mary’ was originally by Robert Burns but these words are slightly different. It was a very personal piece for Burns, describing as it does, his plans to travel to the West Indies with Mary Campbell.
Westward is a fine album by an artist who is not particularly well-known in the UK and really should be.