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Her last album, 2001’s Yola, saw Eleanor McEvoy move away from the electric pop rock of her major label days to the more rootsy, acoustic approach of her earlier work. It was a wise decision...
Colm O Hare, 14 Apr 2004
Her last album, 2001’s Yola, saw Eleanor McEvoy move away from the electric pop rock of her major label days to the more rootsy, acoustic approach of her earlier work. It was a wise decision, both artistically and commercially; the success of that album (particularly in the UK where it won several awards) opened up a whole new audience for the Wexford based singer-songwriter.
Early Hours follows in much in the same vein, albeit with a much stronger jazz influence than its predecessor. Collaborating closely with her keyboard player Brian Connor, the album also features long-time associates Calum McColl, Liam Bradley and Nicky Scott. As with virtually everything she has done to date, the songs here are immaculately crafted, sympathetically arranged and beautifully recorded.
Muted trumpet, cascading piano and brush-stroke rhythms underpin the opener ‘You’ll Hear Better Songs (Than This)’ which sets the tone for much of what follows. The sultry, late-night mood is continued on an inspired interpretation of Chuck Berry’s ‘Memphis Tennessee’ - the piano and bass arrangement making it sound like a cut from Miles Davis’ Kind Of Blue album. Things move up a notch or two on the pleasant, mid-tempo pop of the recent single, ‘I’ll Be Willing’, while a traditionally based instrumental, ‘Driving Home From Butlers’, showcases her fiddle playing.
McEvoy’s lyrical themes concern the human condition – love, happiness, and sadness, but she also tackles subjects such as religious devotion (‘Ave Maria’) and the death of a close friend on the poignant ‘Slipping Away’. The low-key mood is broken only by ‘Days Roll By’ a dance-pop number with a full band arrangement. A version of Bert Jansch’s ‘Where Did My Life Go’ is a brave choice and a beautiful song – but the absolute highlight and one of the best songs she’s ever written is the gorgeously melodic and heart-rending ‘Make Mine A Small One’.
Early Hours is released on what’s known as a “hybrid, multi-channel Super Audio CD” (also playable on standard CD players). The surround SACD mix alone will make this one for the audio-philes, but that apart this is surely Eleanor McEvoy’s best album to date.
Buy early, buy often…