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Nigel Schofield of Tykes News

reviews Won't You Come Away by Maggie Boyle

You wait ages for a Maggie Boyle and then two come along together. First Grace Notes’ 20 and then this excellent solo album.

First of all, one should define “solo”: Maggie features on faultless vocals, sublime flute playing and, surprisingly, harmonium. She is joined on this occasion (for she is one who can always rally an impressive team of co-workers in the factory of melody) by Paul Downes, Jon Boden, Steve Tilston on arpeggione, reeds from Dave McKeown and the resonator guitar of Dave Wood, who adds a bluesy feel to many tracks.

Since this might seem a surprising statement to many of Maggie’s admirer, let’s start with one such bluesy track: Liza & Henry is a witty rewrite of There’s A Hole In My Bucket: it sounds like the lost blues behind the singalong folk ditty. It is in fact, a new composition by Joe Tilston, Maggie’s son. This is not the only family connection on the album – the sleeve is by her daughter, and best of all, Betty Sue, a rare M. Boyle original, a tune “which came to me while dancing with my newborn grand-daughter”; it is framed by an air written by her aunt and a fling, dedicated to her father.

One of the delights of hearing Maggie sing – either in person or on disc – is the freshness which she brings to familiar, even hackneyed material. Some of the songs here will be very well-known to most of you – Steve Ashley’s Once In A While, Donal Og, Linden Lea, The Spinning Wheel and The Green Linnet (performed acapella for a captivating five and a half minutes): Maggie brings them to life so that they are full of the fresh surprise of the half remembered. Maggie’s keen ear for a good song is shown by the less familiar material – Christmas In No Man’s Land, Old Man’s Retreat and the wonderful Dawning, which has new words by Frances Watt to a traditional eastern European tune. The last track is a potential classic - Maggie may be the first to record it, but I am sure she will not be the last.

The album’s title recalls a release by Peter Bellamy, who is represented on the disc by a moving version of his recording of The Trees They Do Grow High. The whole album is a fine achievement by a truly great singer.