Review: Thea Gilmore And Sandy Denny

A posthumous collaborative effort is bound to raise some cynical and apprehensive eyebrows. When Sandy Denny is involved, an artist commonly perceived as a key figure in bringing free-thinking and highly personal female song-writing into the mainstream consciousness, the concept is even more contentious.
Don’t Stop Singing is an album in which a ten-strong collection of Denny’s unscored lyrics are set to music by critically-acclaimed folk singer-songwriter Thea Gilmore. A huge, overwhelming and frankly terrifying task for a self-proclaimed Sandy Denny fan? Well yes, but Gilmore certainly does them justice here. At no point self-conscious or apologetic, Gilmore confidently nails a creatively mountainous task. The songs flow perfectly, both lyrically and musically. There are almost no forced moments, and Gilmore delivers her vocal with such heartfelt vulnerability that you could be forgiven for believing that the words and the music were penned by one hand.
Album highlights are Pain In My Heart and Long Time Gone, both slow, smooth tracks which leak out longing and regret, characterised like so many of Denny’s lyrics by a melancholy which instill a sadness that truly settles in the listener’s bones. The only slightly uneasy listen is London, an accordian-heavy kicky dance fest which, although it provides musical diversity and a different strain of traditional folk, feels rather forced, given the sombre content and delivery of the rest of the record.
The candour of Denny’s lyrics alongside Gilmore’s sensitive and artful handling of them, make for a believable and accomplished record in its own right, despite its unconventional origins.
A Q&A with Thea Gilmore on her approach towards making the album will follow shortly!
Anna Byrne