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Amy McAllister - String on String (Self Release)
With her celestial voice and heavenly harp, it would be easy to make an angel of Amy McAllister for this review of her debut album, STRING ON STRING. Strip back the halos, wings and fluffy clouds, however, and you'll find an album that explores Celtic music with equal measures of sincerity, dexterity and serenity.
The Antrim-born harpist, singer and fiddler has spent much of her life performing around the world, representing Ireland at the world's largest harp festival in Brazil and bringing a touch of Irish class to weddings and blessings. STRING ON STRING is, therefore, an album of impressive quality and, despite its romantic packaging, is far from one of those run-of-the-mill collection of harp tunes that might provide half an hour's tranquillity.
Consider Amy's vocal on Holy, Holy, for example, which wears its jazz influences proudly, or the heartfelt way in which McAllister interprets Bonnie Blue Eyed Nancy over a wonderfully reverberating trickle of piano and harp. And then there's the utterly seductive Mi Amor that, thanks to its layering of vocals, strummed ukulele and achingly beautiful harp melody, demands several plays before moving on.
There's an arresting elegance to this album, a fine thread that weaves itself through harp tunes such as Jigs, O'Carolans Concerto and Catriona McKay's The Swan LK243 as well as the aforementioned songs which each showcase Amy's delicately vernal vocals. It's an album I'll be turning to frequently.