You can take the woman out of Dungiven but…

Wanderer is the most recent offering in the now substantial catalogue and career of Cara Dillon. Overall it’s a very fine piece of work, great singing, sparse but very effective musical accompaniment, clean clear production and understated but suitable presentation.

Cara chooses to sing ten songs, loosely linked to the themes of movement of people, emigration and the pursuit of love. The album is produced by Sam Lakeman, who also provides piano accompaniment.

The sound is warm and intimate with vocals and piano being the dominant sound. Alongside this, there are some notable contribution from Kris Dever, John Smith, Justin Adams, lovely fiddle playing from Nial Murphy, and Ben Nicholls. It’s obviously a labour of love for Lakeman.

Six of the songs are noted as traditional, one penned by Dick Gaughan, one by Shaun Davey and two credited to Dillon and Lakeman. The traditional songs would be fairly well-known to fans of such music, in particular to the Derry and Ulster school of singing – ‘Blackwater Side’, ‘The Banks of the Foyle’, ‘The Faughan Side’, ‘The Banks of the Bann’.

The challenge, therefore, is to bring something new or fresh to the numerous fine versions already out there. This test is passed rather easily thanks to Cara having a wonderful voice, a deep understanding of the material and the accompaniment which supports but doesn’t distract from the singing.

It’s always a challenge for a singer to introduce their own material alongside strong traditional songs and work from established writers. Bravely Cara includes two co-writes with husband and producer Sam Lakeman – ‘The Leaving Song’ and ‘Lakeside Swans’. Fear not, both sit easily alongside the others. I particularly like ‘The Leaving Song’ which adds to and develops the album’s overall theme.

A special mention for the version of Dick Gaughan’s ‘Both Sides The Tweed’. Dick has had health issues and I don’t think he is touring at present so it’s great to see his work acknowledged in this fine collection.

It’s a good album, and well worth checking out. You will go a long way to hear a more natural and gifted singer recorded in a more sympathetic manner.

Cara Dillon plays the Ulster Hall, Belfast on 17th December 2017. Get your tickets now.

Additional Tour Dates

  • Thursday 14th December – The Marketplace Theatre, Armagh
  • Saturday 16th December – The Millennium Forum, Derry
  • Sunday 17th December – The Ulster Hall, Belfast