Thea Gilmore and the words of Sandy Denny Don’t Stop Singing Review

Released 2011.  

BBC Review

Earns itself a place alongside the solo albums Sandy released in her lifetime.

Patrick Humphries 2011

The Sandy Denny this writer met in 1977 was gossipy and lively, and her tragically premature death the following year robbed the British music scene of a rich and unique voice. Until now, she has remained in the shadow of her Island contemporary Nick Drake. But with her name being dropped in all the right places, bulging box sets on the shelves, a new biography available and beautifully compiled album reissues out there, the quality of Denny’s material is being rightly appreciated.

Of all the contemporary projects with her name attached, Don’t Stop Singing is perhaps the most intriguing, with respected singer/songwriter Thea Gilmore writing music to accompany lyrics Sandy never lived to record. It is an audacious concept, but refreshingly it works. Thea is not in awe of Sandy; she doesn’t attempt to sing like her, and has no hesitation in conjuring choruses out of fragments from the Denny notebooks. Of the 20 or so discovered songs, 10 are tackled here. Lushly orchestrated, crisply produced and beautifully sung, they comprise a stellar addition to a glittering catalogue.

But what comes across from the words is a deep sense of melancholy: Sandy was battling a career meltdown, a drink problem and her only daughter had been taken from her. From the lyrics alone, you sense isolation, pain, distress; but also apparent is vulnerability, and that of course, was one of the reasons Sandy was such a great songwriter. Sandy’s love of the sea ran through her music, and Sailor is one of the outstanding tracks here. London rocks along, while Glistening Bay is effortlessly a great song by a great singer. But it is the immeasurably poignant Georgia which brings the album to a close, a lullaby to a daughter from a mother she would never know.

The highest praise you can apply is that Don’t Stop Singing earns itself a place alongside the solo albums Sandy released in her lifetime.

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