It’s been six years since the Irish singer-songwriter and book editor released her debut, but she’s finally got round to a second, one drawing an Americana and country blues, filtered through her Gaelic heritage and featuring the stunning guitar work of Conor Brady. Thematically, it balances with the pointedly and powerfully political and the poignantly personal, opening with ‘Finest Flower’, an Appalachian-tinged number written in honour and memory of the many women who fell victim to the Magdalene Laundries and the Mother and Baby Homes, inspired by the testimony of the survivors.
The twin themes of feminism and the church embodied there are also visited individually. Featuring Justin Carroll on Hammond, ‘Let The Rain Fall’ is Memphis soul influenced song about the church’s failure to take responsibility for its child abuse while ‘Trouble Come Find Me’ is a sparse brooding traditional sounding blues about the struggle for women’s bodily autonomy. On a similar traditional note, she also offers a gender recasting with a bluesily raw ‘Woman of Constant Sorrow’ that directs its gaze at the struggles of women in Irish society then and now. However, as the love and equality themed blues ‘Lemme Drive Your Train’ shows, she can be playful too while, at the opposite end of the emotional spectrum, there’s the slow sway soul of ‘River Road’ with its regrets of bridges burned .
Musically, the album also follows a winding path, from the sloping blues of ‘2 Hard 2 Get To Heaven’ and the late night jazzy vibe of ‘Watching The Dark’ where she reminds me of Bonnie Koloc to the country gospel driving train rhythm of ‘Wooden Bridge’ and the Van Morrison feel of ‘Take Me With You’, while, harmonising with Michelle Considine and Marty Mullally, the set closes in simple acoustic style with the lilting, lovely American folksiness of ‘Little Bird Song’.
Again boosted by the solid backing vocals, Carroll again on organ, the Dylan-inspired reflective dustbowl country title track, a song about re-establishing sustaining connections with its images of fading small towns, is a particular standout, conjuring a soulful Emmylou Harris as she sings how “One side tells you a dime’s a dollar, the other sells somebody’s dollar for a dime.” The album inspired Joseph O’Connor, Sinead’s brother, to write a poem entitled Sidine Street, capturing the world she inhabits and the ghosts of those who share it. One line goes, “I don’t want to be alone, I want to hear her music.” You need to as well.
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Artist’s website: www.ciarasidine.com
‘Unbroken Line’ – live: