Heidi Talbot heads into collaborative territory on her latest release Angels Without Wings featuring original compositions with collaborations alongside the likes of Mark Knopfler, King Creosote, Jerry Douglas, Tim O’Brien, Karine Polwart, Louis Abbott (Admiral Fallow) Julie Fowlis and more.
The collaborations on Angels Without Wings vary in overall impact some being more obvious than others, it’s an album on which there’s more going on than is immediately obvious, something that goes in its favour and one which feels without pretence. A second listen reveals many textures at play beneath the surface, additional flavours that the guests have brought along, ones that explain the extra sparkle and appeal you couldn’t quite lay your finger upon at first. The subtlety approach was something that wasn’t lost on John McCusker, Talbot’s husband, producer and bandmate who joked with her when Mark Knopfler and Jerry Douglas offered to play on the album “you’ve got the best guitar players in the world and we’re blending them in?”
That’s not to say that Heidi Talbot hasn’t forged new ground on his album…she has, but she has also maintained a balance that will please hardcore fans and newcomers alike, no easy task, I’d go further to say this is her best release to date.
The production and choices made on this release have turned out to be top notch, the colourful arrangements work really well giving songs a rich depth, blending British folk with American roots in places that gives a few tracks that wholesome transatlantic feel. Some tracks are more daring than others such as ‘Button Up‘ which features Kenny Anderson (King Creosote). Kenny’s involvement was borne out of mutual admiration, Heidi explains “He was asked to pick his fantasy band for The Independent and he picked me and Morten Harket from A-ha on joint lead vocals.” This track has been shaped with Kenny in mind, it has a slightly harder edge. Heidi conceived the melody and Kenny provided the lyrics but on first listen you’d equally believe it was the other way around, there is clear empathy at play and it demonstrates Talbot’s ability in evolving new musical relationships.
Other standout tracks include ‘The Loneliest‘ which features a beautiful duet with Louis Abbott of Admiral Fallow. This is the ultimate tug-at-the-heart-strings track on the album which gets the extra emotional push from Michael McGoldrick on flute. Heidi’s songwriting is on top form as ever from the whimsical ‘Will I Ever Get to Sleep‘ a great foot-tapper with McGoldrick working his magic again to the reflective ‘I’m Not Sorry‘, a mini-psychodrama on which she adds “I felt it so it can’t be wrong to sing about it.” Not surprisingly tracks by Boo Hewerdine also feature, Boo is a prolific songwriter and he adds his magic on ‘When The Roses Come Again‘ (feat. Mark Knopfler), a duet with bluegrass legend Tim O’Brien with no bluegrass sound in earshot.
The sweetened ‘Arcadia’ summons the end of the album as it drifts out on piano, accordion and long bass notes.
The album was recorded at the popular Gorbals Sound Studios in Glasgow (Lau, Glasvegas). As well as the guest artists mentioned above Heidi also had her regular team of Ian Carr (guitars), Phil Cunningham (accordian), Michael McGoldrick (flutes/whistles), James Mackintosh (percussion), Boo Hewerdine (acoustic guitar) and Ewan Vernal (bass). There was a concerted effort to capture a live feel to the album, something that is certainly becoming more in vogue again. “If people made mistakes we’d just keep going,” says Heidi. “On some of the tracks you can even hear the harmonium creaking. These guys are friends, they all give their opinion. They’ll say, “that’s it! That’s the take!’”
We thoroughly enjoyed the album and my only regret is that we have to wait until February 18th 2013 for its release, this would have been agreat Christmas album to relax to.
There will be a special launch gig at Glasgows Celtic Connections festival on January 27th. There will also be a concert at Cecil Sharp House on Thursday 21 February 2013 at 7:30pm (details)
Angels Without Wings is released via Navigator Records Pre-order it here