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Cara Dillon Hill of Thieves Review

Album. Released 2009.  

BBC Review

Artists this good deserved to be savored.

Sid Smith 2009

There are some musicians who develop with every new release. With a brace of awards, praise from her peers and an ever-growing following, Cara Dillon certainly fits that particular bill. Her fourth album perfectly demonstrates how keeping things simple really pays off.

A beautifully balanced production, brimming with sparkling guitar, piano, wistful uilleann pipes and Dillon’s shimmering vocals, this first release for her own Charcoal Records delivers a smoldering collection of traditional tunes. With the beguiling title track as the only original composition, the join between between old and new is seamless.

Although She Moved Through The Fair may be something of a well-worn classic, when Dillon sings those words, it’s as though we’re hearing it for the first time. Similarly on Spencer The Rover, where she shares vocals with brother-in-law Seth Lakeman, somehow transcends its familiarity.

Perhaps the only faltering moment is her rendition of the ballad, False, False. Steeped in pain and betrayal, arguably the definitive version of this song was captured by June Tabor on her 1994 album, Against the Streams, where that mature voice added extra layers of depth and poignancy.

Although entirely admirable, Dillon’s vocal seems a touch too sweet, perhaps too innocent even, lacking the weathered regret which Tabor effortlessly conveys. That aside, there’s no denying that husband Sam Lakeman’s doleful piano and Ben Nicholls’ unfettered on acoustic bass underscore the tune’s air of loss and remorse to perfection.

Following on from 2006‘s, After the Morning, simplicity really is the essence of her craft. The emotive unaccompanied vocal of the Gaelic tune Fil,Fil A Run O provides the most eloquent explanation as to why Dillon’s singing is so rightly valued. It’s impossible not be held spellbound.

Released at a time of year when the evenings are cold and dark, Hill of Thieves is a kind of rich comfort food for the soul, bringing some much-needed light and warmth. Artists this good deserved to be savored.

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