Heidi Talbot & John McCusker – Love Is The Bridge Between Two Hearts
Under One Sky Records – 20 April 2018
Aged 18, County Kildare born Heidi Talbot moved to the US and was soon invited to join Cherish The Ladies, with whom she stayed until 2007. She has received several BBC Radio 2 Folk Award nominations, was nominated as Best Live Act by the Scottish Traditional Music Awards and Best Female Vocalist at the Irish Music Awards. As well as her solo releases, she has also appeared on albums by, amongst others, Boo Hewerdine, Idlewild and Eddi Reader.
John McCusker has received the highest acclaim after more than a quarter of a century as a professional musician, winning, for example, the BBC Radio 2 Folk Musician of the Year and Good Tradition Awards in 2003 and 2016 respectively, and was a key component in The Battlefield Band. Much sought after, both as musician and producer, his lists of credits is enviable and includes Paul Weller, Mark Knopfler, Kris Drever, Eddi Reader and Kate Rusby.
In addition to the above, for a decade the pair have recorded songs on each other’s solo albums, written songs together and toured the world in each other’s bands. They are also partners in life as well as music, and by way of celebrating these ten years have released their first duo E.P./mini-album, Love Is The Bridge Between Two Hearts, which will be supported by a UK and European tour. On a video trailer for the CD, prior to its release, we learnt that the duo thought that it felt perfectly natural to work together and that the tracks would be a mixture of folk songs that they had grown up with and have reworked, along with songs that Heidi had found in old song books and thought would be fun to try. A cover of a more contemporary song, together with a self-penned contribution rounds off the half-dozen pieces on offer.
McCusker avers that the album title is inspired by their daily passing of the new Queensferry Bridge, (Crossing), and their subsequent reflection upon the crossing of bridges as a metaphor for bringing people together. It might be interesting, however, to conjecture that the Swedish proverb ‘Kärlek är bron mellan två hjärtan’, which translates as Love Is The Bridge Between Two Hearts, was somewhere in the thought process. The original tune which gives the album its title, composed by John on a beach in County Mayo, is jolly, jaunty and uplifting, showing off, in particular, his consummate skills on the fiddle.
Opening track, Sprig Of Thyme, (variously known as The Seeds Of Love, Maiden’s Lament, Let No Man Steal Your Thyme), sees the duo both writing a new tune and adapting the words to this traditional British and Irish folk ballad which uses botanical symbolism as a warning to young people of the dangers of taking false lovers. Whilst versions have been recorded by the likes of Anne Briggs, Pentangle, Jim Moray and Josienne Clarke & Ben Walker; sleeve notes suggest that for Heidi, one of her earliest musical memories was of hearing her parents playing the version recorded by Foster & Allen. Here, Heidi’s oh so sweet vocals are underscored, but not overwhelmed, by some fine pipe and accordion accompaniment.
The next song goes back even further in time; the version of Drink To Me Only with Thine Eyes, the lyrics of which are Ben Johnson‘s 1616 poem Song To Celia, is gorgeously lilting, with some delightful trumpet playing providing a counterpoint to Heidi, who is joined by Adam Holmes on vocals. The E.P. also includes a great broken token love song, William Hall, (variants of which include The Poor and Young Single Sailor, A Fair Maiden Walking, The Broken Token and Pretty Fair Maid In The Garden). Once again, the original music composed by Heidi and John is nothing short of heavenly.
The penultimate track brings proceedings closer to the present day with a beguiling version of Gillian Welch & David Rawlings‘s Dear Someone, the seemingly effortless delivery of which to these ears is less Americana in feel than the version appearing on Time (The Revelator) whilst still allowing one to imagine couples romantically moving around the dancefloor on a balmy summer’s evening.
Closing the release is a moving version of Over The Hills And Far Away. While the lyrics are based around Hark Now the Drums Beat Up Again, with an additional verse from the version written by John Tams for the Sharp TV series, once again the original music from Heidi & John showcases their superbly well-honed combined creative talents.
Ably supported on the recording by Innes White, James Lindsay, James Mackintosh, Michael McGoldrick, Donald Shaw, Toby Shippey, Sorren Maclean and Simon Thoumire, with additional vocals from Adam Holmes and John Smith, £1 from every copy of the release sold will go to the Nordof Robbins Musical Therapy Centre.
With Love Is The Bridge Between Two Hearts, Heidi and John have created something which sounds fresh and beautiful. If this E.P. is to serve as an amuse-bouche, then I, for one, can’t wait for a much longer main course.
Available now via John and Heidi’s websites: