It may not break her through to the mainstream, but when Eva Cassidy can gain huge...
Michael Fitzsimmons 2003
Cara Dillon's 2001 debut was a remarkably assured collection and justifiably acclaimed. Although mainly traditional tunes, it was nevertheless infused with a modern sensibility and artful, understated arrangements courtesy of personal and professional partner Sam Lakeman. Of course, all this would have not have mattered without Dillon's crystalline, angelic voice, an instrument of rare beauty capable of melting the sternest of hearts.
Unsurprisingly, Sweet Liberty is basically more of the same, which should please Cara's many fans.This time, however, Cara and Sam have cut down on the traditional tracks and begun to exercise what amounts to a considerable song writing muscle. The praise for the self penned ''Blue Mountain River'' has obviously inspired them to put pen to paper once more. Their originals sit happily alongside the traditional, reinforcing the debt they owe it while pointing to a distinct musical identity of their own.
Also included is the beguiling version of Tommy Sands' ''There Were Roses'', best known from Billy Connolly's most recent television series, plus a cover of Johnny Moynihan and Terry Woods' ''Standing on the Shore'', made famous by Anne Briggs. The latter is particularly poignant, floating on a delicate drone and understated percussion.
Sam Lakeman's piano lines still ripple magically throughout, while his brother Seth adds his usual assured fiddle flourishes. Sam's arrangements never overwhelm Cara's vocals, but are certainly more assured than on the debut.Sometimes echoing the experimentalism of the pair's days with Equation, they make use of a wide range of instrumental textures. As you would expect, the playing is faultless throughout. Occasionally, as on ''Broken Bridges'', the combination is stunning, as Cara's ethereal vocals entwine over a shifting bed of drums, whistle and harmonium to remarkable effect.
The only criticism is that many of the songs roam similar harmonic and melodic territory, making Sweet Liberty sound slightly samey on initial hearings.However, given time its subtle charms, sweeping atmospherics and above all Cara's faultless vocals prove a pleasing combination.It may not break her through to the mainstream, but when Eva Cassidy can gain huge success with her easy listening folkie karaoke, surely anything is possible?