Review: Heidi Talbot – a voice so sweet

A divine voice… Heidi Talbot. Photographs: David Markham
15 Apr 2014 @ 2.02 pm
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A divine voice… Heidi Talbot. Photographs: David Markham
A divine voice… Heidi Talbot. Photographs: David Markham

Review: Heidi Talbot
Venue: National Centre For Early Music, York, April 14

I make it just in time. The audience is gathered. The stage is loaded with acoustic guitars and monitors.

The sky can be seen through the lead glass window. The colour of the sky changes from blue to black – as day turns to night. The room is full with maybe 200 people. There is a quiet murmur amongst the audience. The show begins at 7.30pm – sharp.

The opening performance is from a local singer/ songwriter, David Ward Maclean. A talented guitarist with a deep, bluesy voice, he plays five songs with ease.

Each song is prefaced with a narrative. Each song has a history and a tale to tell. He is weathered and his voice is etched with character. He’s worth watching.

He warmed the audience up and no doubt planted a seed with the audience – that if they see his name again, playing in the locality, they should check him out.

Without further ado, the headline act is introduced.

The stage is set at the NCEM
The stage is set at the NCEM
A voice etched with character – David Ward Maclean
A voice etched with character – David Ward Maclean

Heidi Talbot has built an audience over the past few years by releasing great albums and receiving critical acclaim wherever she plays.

My expectations were high this evening and I was not to be disappointed. Supported by the ubiquitous John McCusker and Ian Carr, the trio create the kind of warmth that folk music demands.

The opening song was Grace Darling. A rousing song that had the audience joining in – briefed by Ms Talbot of course.

Followed by the Shepherd Lad she weaves her way to a standout track – the fabulous Start It All Over Again. Its live treatment is every bit as good as the recorded performance and it paved the way for Dearest Johnny off the McCusker produced album Angels Without Wings.

Each song is delivered faultlessly. Each musician squeezes every last drop from each of the songs. There’s no place to hide with acoustic instruments. Three instrumentals and two further songs followed – before a short interlude.

Folk audiences are always polite. Tonight was no exception. A cross section of ages mingled comfortably and perhaps this is the appeal of Heidi Talbot. She brings a sense of tradition but her delivery feels contemporary. It feels of it’s moment.

She is a consumate performer and each song is introduced with typical Irish wit and charm. She makes people laugh and then she knocks ’em over with a voice that is oh so sweet.

John McCusker: multi-talented
John McCusker: multi-talented
The audience cheered for more at the end
The audience cheered for more at the end

How could anybody not fail to be charmed by this girl from County Kildare?

The second half of the performance begins with the haunting Bedlam Boys. Sally Brown and Wine & Roses stick in my mind.

The Boo Hewerdine track Angels Without Wings is often compared to Fairground Attraction. I say so what? It’s upbeat and fun – with a charming notion wrapped inside.

Evidently Heidi Talbot is a fan of Sandy Denny and the temptation to play At The End Of The Day is all too much.

She delivers an achingly beautiful interpretation and it’s a fitting song to complete the set. Sadly the Tom Waits song Time was not played. You can’t win ’em all…

The audience cheer for more and for the band – there’s no escape. They return to play one final song.

It was a delightful evening. Talbot is funny and engaging. Her voice divine.

McCusker is multi-talented and it’s no surprise that he is in demand. Like a steadfast and true foot soldier, Ian Carr is solid on acoustic guitar. He is the glue to the performance.

Tonight’s show was sold out. If she tours near you – go and see her.

She won’t change your life but she will definitely enhance it. She held down a great gig tonight.