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The Old Simplicity

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Album Review

On her first offering in nearly four years, Niamh (pronounced "Neeve") Parsons delivers her most powerful and serious recording yet. Her voice is singular, a trademark, much like Linda Thompson's — and in fact Parsons covers the latter's "No Telling" here. She revisits the amorous territory of 2002's Heart's Desire but juxtaposes it against songs of war, aging, and injustice. Parsons' producer is Dennis Cahill once again, and Graham Dunne remains her guitarist and musical foil. The traditional material here — "Poor Irish Stranger," "Moll and Poll Ha'Penny," and "Long Cookstown" — is given new and bracing arrangement without the loss of Parsons' sensitivity toward history. Her readings are full of empathy and reverence, but extend it for modern listeners. Of the new songs, the set opener, "1917" by David Olney, is startlingly beautiful. It's a reality-based love song about a drunken, broken soldier on leave, told from the perspective of a woman who has seen many. It's a song about both love and war, illustrated out of space and time by Parsons' hunted vocal. Alistair Hulett contributes three songs to this set, all of them heartbreakers, but none as devastating as "No Half Measures," a supposedly true account of a woman who wrote the details in a letter to an Australian newspaper. This is the kind of love song that offers the surrender to helplessness as the only way to salvage memory from a relationship. The reading of "John Condon," here arranged by Dunne, is one of the great war songs that asks the eternal question: why? The Old Simplicity is dignified and burns its passion quietly like a smoldering fire. There's poetry in here, and tragedy and defeat, and above all empathy and love. Highly recommended.


Born: Dublin, Ireland

Genre: World

Years Active: '90s, '00s

Niamh Parsons is a fine singer from Ireland. Her roots are traditional, but she sings in a variety of styles. She released Blackbirds and Thrushes in...
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The Old Simplicity, Niamh Parsons
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