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Cara Dillon Live at Cooper Hall, YouTube review - a warm Irish welcome | reviews, news & interviews

Cara Dillon Live at Cooper Hall, YouTube review - a warm Irish welcome

Cara Dillon Live at Cooper Hall, YouTube review - a warm Irish welcome

With delicacy and grace, she moved through the fayre

Wonderfully expressive

Cara Dillon and Sam Lakeman were bringing it all back home when they performed their first live stream concert from Cooper Hall, in Frome, Somerset, close to were they live and where they recorded Dillon’s 2017 album, Wanderer.

Like that somewhat “accidental” album, Thursday’s concert was strong on “songs of departure and longing for home”, many of them drawn from Wanderer and many referencing the places close to where she grew up and some of them specific childhood experiences. Homesick blues, but not so subterranean as it were. All the crew was local.

And what a glorious 75 minutes it was, beautifully set and staged, the music an exquisite patchwork of different hues, Lakeman on piano and acoustic guitar, Dillon adding penny whistle to a number of the songs. The sound was perfect, the set well-paced, a Gaelic song perhaps inspiring some to dance around the kitchen. Dillon introduced each of the songs, as she did so recalling friends and family, fellow musicians, and the beauty of County Londonderry, and so often “the leaving of this lovely place”, mostly of course for “Ameri-cay”. For decades it was poverty and joblessness that drove people away and then, in Dillon’s childhood, the Troubles, as the passing last week John Hume reminded us. “I Am A Youth That’s Inclined to Ramble” set the tone.

Dillon’s been singing since childhood, growing up steeped in traditional music and winning the All-Ireland Singing Trophy at just 14. At 16 she had her own band and by 18 she’d recorded two albums. She was part of folk supergroup Equation with the Lakeman brothers, marrying Sam, her musical partner ever since. Over the last two decades, Dillon has been garlanded with honours, sweeping the board at the 2010 Radio 2 Folk Awards, and deservedly so.

Most of the songs were Irish traditional, arranged by Dillon and Lakeman, whose subtle piano playing takes the songs into a new realm, enhancing Dillon’s voice. She is a wonderfully expressive singer, her use of portamento and melisma always well-judged and pitch-perfect. Together, they come close to folk song as art song, as “The Tern and the Swallow” and “Black is the Colour” amply demonstrate.

“The Hill of Thieves” is “an ode to Dungiven”, where she grew up, written when she was “homesick and on the other side of the world”. She remembered “a great upbringing and a town full of wonderful people”. Lakeman abandoned his delicate guitar picking for energetic strumming and Dillon added whistle breaks between the verses. Especially poignant was “The Leaving Song”, co-written by Dillon and Lakeman and inspired by stories from her mother about growing up in County Derry where “leaving wakes” marked the departure of yet another young man or woman on their one-way tickets to America – “everyone celebrating, yet it’s heart-breaking… saying goodbye forever” as they danced and drank till dawn:
      My son leaves today, Lord
      God help me I pray, Lord
      Slip out the door son, but don’t say goodbye
      Take one last look at this north-western sky

The show ended with “The Parting Glass”, a Scottish traditional song much associated with the Irish Clancy Brothers, who surely sang it while propping up the bar in the old White Horse Tavern in Greenwich Village, thus inspiring a young singer-songwriter named Bob Dylan who turned it into a new song, “Restless Farewell”.

“Goodnight, and joy be with you all” – who wouldn’t raise glass to that in these troubled times.

Cara Dillon Live at Cooper Hall is available on Facebook and YouTube

Beautifully set and staged, the music an exquisite patchwork of different hues


Editor Rating: 
Average: 5 (1 vote)

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