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LISA HANNIGAN Passenger (2011)

Lisa Hannigan

Initially coming to prominence singing and touring with Damien Rice, Lisa Hannigan put her debut release Sea Sew (2009) together at rehearsals in a freezing barn in the Irish countryside and it was produced at a friend's studio within a fortnight. Yet it went platinum, and was nominated for the Choice Music Prize in Ireland and the Mercury Prize in the UK.

And on the basis 'if it ain't broken, don't fix it', Lisa's follow-up album Passenger, written across Dublin, Brooklyn and West Cork, was put together in double quick time, and recorded and produced in just a week by Joe Henry (Ani DiFranco, Solomon Burke, Loudon Wainwright III).

The album picks up where Sea Sew left off with Lisa's wistful breathy vocals floating gently over, for the most part, the restrained and tender refrains of her finger picked banjos, guitars, mandolin and ukele. But it's by no means a 'solo' effort with a core 'band' of Gavin Glass (vocals, piano, Rhodes, 5 string banjo and guitars), Shane Fitzsimons (bass), Ross Turner (drums), Donagh Molloy (harmonium, glockenspiel and some beautiful trumpet on the title track) and Lucy Wilkins (violin).

There's also a cast of assorted 'guest appearances' perhaps most notably Ray LaMontagne who shares vocals on O Sleep, and the album has more 'worldly' feel to it than Sea Sew, perhaps reflecting that many of the songs on Passenger were written while Lisa was awy form home or on the road. But despite the seemingly large number of contributors, the album is dominated by subtle ambiences as the album laps gently like the ocean's swell against a deserted shoreline.

With a short November tour scheduled to promote the album (and surely a Jools Holland spot?) Passenger looks set to cement Lisa's position as a contemporary folk singer of note. On this evidence, she can certainly hold her own in the company of the likes of Damien Rice and Ray LaMontagne. Which is exactly where Passenger fits in today's musical spectrum.


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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