Niamh Parsons

Blackbirds & Thrushes

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AllMusic Review by

Niamh Parsons has a uniquely beautiful voice, a dark, silky mezzo that wraps itself like a scarf around the songs she performs. She's made a name for herself both as a singer for the traditional band Arcady and with her own band, Loose Connections, with whom she's recorded two albums of material both traditional and modern. Blackbirds & Thrushes finds Parsons exploring her roots. "The Maid on the Shore" is the first song her father taught her; she sings the rather Quebecois-sounding "Sally Sits Weeping" with her sister Anne (with whom she often sang as a child); other songs come from her early days on the folk-club scene or from old friends. The personal nature of the program gives a deep emotional resonance to her singing-she delivers the bleak "Kilnamartyra Exile" in a heartbreakingly gentle and matter-of-fact tone, and imbues standards like "Fear a Bhata" and "The Water Is Wide" with an understated emotional urgency that will make you hear those old chestnuts as if for the first time. Accompaniment is minimal, and on several tracks she sings a capella. This is a remarkably beautiful recording.

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