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CIARA SIDINE Shadow Road Shining SIDINECDLP001 (2011)

Ciara Sidine

Marketed as one the most talented singer songwriters emerging from Ireland, and jumping on the current Americana bandwagon, I approached this debut release from Dublin based Ciara Sidine with a little trepidation. Not least, because her previous artistic output has been confined to being one of Ireland's foremost literary editors.

On the plus side, there's a very fine supporting cast including Waterboy's violinist Steve Wickham (REM, Bob Dylan), Conor Brady (Toots and the Maytals, Terence Trent D'Arby and George Martin) on guitars, banjo, pedal bass and percussion, Paul Moore (Van Morrison) on electric and double bass, Dave Hingerty (The Frames, Swell Season)on drums and percussion, Justin Carroll (Van Morrison) on keyboards and Hammond, as well as backing vocals from Paul Byrne and a guest duet by Jack L.

So with all songs written by Ciara (with the exception of a traditional arrangement of the opening track Riding Home) and the album produced on a tight budget and with limited time by Martin Clancy what I really wasn't expecting was such an accomplished set and such an amazing vocal performance. And with Ciara now in her early thirties, you have to ask the question: 'where the hell has she been all these years?'

With a vocal sound that has echoes of Sharleen Spiteri (before she went 'pop') and maybe Billie Myers, but perhaps closest of all, in style, to Maria McKee, Ciara's angelic tones are a wonder to behold. And when she dips a few octaves, as she does on the bluesy Mercy Moon and the broody Hollow The Breeze there's a wonderfully soulful element to her breathy vocals.

Putting someone in the same bracket as Maria McKee is high praise indeed, and for someone debuting as a singer songwriter relatively late in life, it's quite a remarkable feat. Shadow Road Shining is as good as anything you'll hear emerging from the Americana / roots field in 2011, and Ciara Sidine is one of the most exciting new vocalists I've heard in quite some time.


Review by Pete Whalley


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***** Out of this world | **** Pretty damn fine |
*** OK, approach with caution unless you are a fan |
** Instant bargain bin fodder | * Ugly. Just ugly

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