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Spring Records SCD 1033

Siobhan Skates and Rosemary Woods are singer/songwriters from Northern Ireland and when I first heard this debut album which they've been promoting on their recent Scottish tour it caught me at the right time and in the right mood.

Of course, first impressions can be false; an album on first hearing can promise a lot but fail to deliver on repeated plays and as my mellow mood evaporated over the subsequent days (well, you know what life is ... ) I feared that it might lose its considerable appeal. I was wrong! Gloriously wrong!

Siobhan and Rosemary have been singing as a duo in Northern Ireland since 1992; Rosemary comes from Portaferry and Siobhan is originally from Sydney of Irish parentage but travelled to Ireland to try her luck as a singer where no-one would know her if she failed. Ah, the confidence of youth ...

A debut album always presents a difficult choice for singer/songwriters: whether to show off all your own work or compromise by including a couple of safe standards. Here the duo have gone for broke with each contributing six songs and the quality of the writing justifies their decision.

Ask them to describe their songs and they're quite categoric: Siobhan writes in riddles, she says, and Rosemary writes simple songs but I don't think it's quite as easy a division as that. Siobhan's song "Parallel Lines" could be about the duo themselves (but she writes in riddles, remember?) while her "Sunset Over Cornwall" nicely contrasts a sunset here with that same sun rising in Australia. Two of Rosemary's contributions "Wild Flowers For You" and "Mary Anne" are totally spellbinding and make you want to know more about the people portrayed in them.

Melodically, most of the songs will stay with you for a long time and the album production - by the girls and Colum Sands - is excellent. The voices are crystal clear and the musicianship is of a very high standard with the added instrumentation never intrusive.

The CD is produced from Colum Sands' Studio at Spring Records, Rostrevor, County Down, and can be got here through Greentrax. I recommend it thoroughly.

Alan Brown

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This album was reviewed in Issue 11 of The Living Tradition magazine.