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GRAHAM O'CALLAGHAN - "In this Heart" - Dragon Records DRGNCD001

If you think the title of this sounds familiar, you're not wrong. It's named after Sinead O'Connor's 1994 song, which is the last track on the album. O'Callaghan sings it in a meltingly romantic voice, steadily unfolding the lyric with admirable restraint. You can't hurry this song. He doesn't, and he keeps his golden tone evenly throughout. Impressive.

I see from the booklet notes that Graham was a regular at the old Jolly Porter club, Exeter, a club of precious memory to me. I had some of my most enjoyable nights there. It was a place where the regular singers were as good as most of the guests. They had style, commitment, knowledge of the music, and an obvious love and enjoyment of singing. These are qualities that transfer to an audience, which is why when singing there one was always faced with an encouraging and appreciative crowd that nevertheless demanded something extra from their guest singers. A great situation, one that put you on your mettle, and it produced results. Would that we still had clubs like it.

It came as no surprise to me to read that Graham O'Callaghan is an alumni of the Jolly Porter. He has their qualities. He chooses some grand traditional songs, such as 'Twas on One April Morning', 'Limadie', 'Bay of Biscay' and gets the best out of them with that lovely high voice and careful phrasing. But he doesn't stay entirely in traditional territory. As well as the aforementioned title song he sings Graeme Miles' beautiful 'Waiting for the Ferry', and the sombre 'From Severn, By the Somme', inspired by a visit to those former battlefields by the writer, Martin Graebe. Overall the mood of the album is mellow, which suits the singer's voice and thoughtful interpretations. A quality debut.

Roy Harris

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This album was reviewed in Issue 39 of The Living Tradition magazine.