Karan Casey & John Doyle (Compass Records)
CD Review by David Ingram - March 2011
Karan Casey and John Doyle - Exiles Return - Compass Records - Casey and Doyle, more than a decade after their initial collaboration in an early incarnation of Solas, reunite on this collection of songs. Two consummate musicians, they have produced an exquisite recording full of musical gems.
Although Doyle's guitar provides inspired and sympathetic settings, it's the vocals that really are pushed to the fore. The title track was composed by Doyle, and the eleven other numbers are traditional pieces, mostly Irish in origin. The selections themselves are rich with the feelings that emanate from both the vagaries of love, and the pain of separation and loss that tinge an emigrant's often harrowing experiences.
Karan Casey is one of the most engaging singers in any idiom, and is in fabulous form, her voice an instrument of power and poignancy. She sings the majority of the songs, and duets marvelously with Doyle on a couple of others. The two blend seamlessly, and together form a powerhouse of musicianship and sensitivity. Casey is also one of the rare singers who can carry off a number all by herself, and does so on one entrancing, unaccompanied piece.
John Doyle is renowned as a superb guitarist, and in recent years has also revealed his considerable talent as a vocalist too, here taking the lead on three tracks. Additional backing from Dirk Powell and Mike McGoldrick provides yet more nuance and colouring, yet both remain respectful of the singing that dominates the album.
This is a first class collection of music, a finely wrought album for anyone who enjoys roots music at its best.