Maria Doyle Kennedy Sing Review

Album. Released 2012.  

BBC Review

She’s a rare case of someone who actually should give up the day job.

Andy Fyfe 2012

Shooting fish in a barrel is all too great a temptation for some, and the enormous barrel marked "actors turned musician" is more tempting than most. Bruce Willis, Robson Jerome, Eddie Murphy, Lindsay Lohan, Russell Crowe, Jack Black… It’s mighty crowded in there.

Unlikely to wind up dodging bullets, however, is Dublin’s Maria Doyle Kennedy, aka Downton Abbey’s less-than-likeable Mrs Vera Bates and Katherine of Aragon in the roister-doistering The Tudors.

Doyle Kennedy has a musical pedigree stretching back through a string of solo and collaborative albums to her role as backing singer in Alan Parker’s 1991 film The Commitments; so many albums, in fact, that she considers acting a mere day job.

Sing, however, is her debut UK solo album. While nothing here is as blunt an instrument as the earthy title track of 2007’s F***ability, there is enough grit in these acoustic-based singer-songwriter tunes to attract the collaborative attentions of Irish folk hero Paul Brady and rootsy American country star John Prine.

The juxtaposition on Yes We Will – of Doyle Kennedy’s sweet, Bobbie Gentry-like voice and Prine’s road-worn rumble – may not challenge Isobel Campbell and Mark Lanegan in the unlikely musical pairings stakes. But it’s a duet of rare and touching intimacy, showcasing as well as anything on Sing MDK’s ability to transcend and suspend reality. In fact, it’s that very ability that sets her apart from the avalanche of female singer-songwriters, making her songs confessional and personal without being self-obsessed and anguished.

Not that Sing relies on artifice. Warmly engaging, Doyle Kennedy turns her hand to both lost and disappointing love and its flipside, celebrating love that has become cherished and deepened. She even appears to have a pop at an unnamed contemporary luvvie on the sharp-elbowed Sparky Personality.

Touches of gospel and clever cameos for uilleann pipes and bouzouki are added by husband and producer/arranger Kieran Kennedy to his own classy acoustic guitar, all of which gives Sing a foot in both the traditional and modern folk pop worlds. She’s a rare case of someone who actually should give up the day job.

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