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Grem Devlin of The Living Tradition

reviews Maid on the Shore by Niamh Boadle

The second album by this accomplished Lancashire songstress, the first on the Wildgoose label, demonstrates just how far she has come in a relatively short time, in folk terms. Still only 21, she has a maturity of delivery that others take a lifetime to develop.

Six of the 13 songs here are traditional arrangements of chiefly Irish songs, reflecting her paternal heritage (and I suppose her studies at Limerick University will have helped…). She contributes three of her own songs, all of which are worthy of praise, but the first, the album opener Forget-me-not, is a triumph of the songwriting craft, teasing out the salient points from a Victorian newspaper article and constructing a gripping musical tale of merit. Her telling of the Traditional Dark Inishowen sounds authentic to the song’s Donegal origins, due in no small part to her disciplined vocal delivery. She also has a creditable take on Boys Of Mullaghbawn, another Irish tale filled with emotion. The standout cover is of Anthony John Clarke’s The Only Life Gloria Knows, which is now my favourite version of this song.

Her fingerstyle guitar accompaniment is first class throughout and my only criticism is that there are too many squeaky chord changes – but I know myself how hard those are to eliminate. Minor crits aside, this is an excellent 51 minutes of musical charm, delivered with aplomb and well worth a pop. This lady is one to watch out for – and indeed has delivered what is likely to be a front runner for my album of the year (and we’re only half way through as I write).