Words by Kevin Bourke
Emma Sweeney is still only in her mid-20s but she’s been a notable figure on the Manchester traditional Irish scene since her early teens and was a finalist at the BBC Radio 2 Young Folk Awards in 2003. Introduced to Irish music aged seven with tin whistle classes from Marian Egan, she progressed onto the fiddle at ten years old, taught by Colin Farrell and Andy Dinan. More recently, she’s been mentored by Mike McGoldrick, who lends his production and multi-instrumental skills to this refreshing release, her full-length debut after her 2010 EP The Other Crossing.
The indefatigable McGoldrick is joined by Donald Shaw and John Doyle in support, but this is very much Emma’s album. It stands out not only for its charm and a voracious musical curiosity that bodes well for her future, but also for a certain insouciance that wouldn’t seem out of place from her cousins, the Gallagher brothers. Her engaging version of a staple like ‘The Star of Munster,’ for instance, isn’t played as a reel, as it usually is, nor is she afraid to embrace bluegrass with a shimmering version of Randy Howard’s ‘The Golden Fiddle’ waltz. Yet on the only vocal track Emma somehow brings even more fragility to Nick Drake’s ‘A Place to Be.’ Perhaps the most ambitious and personal track is the closer and title-track, a tune replete with influences from her experiences at the age of 18, when she travelled to Kolkata, India, to found a project teaching the tin whistle to 300 street children and orphans from the city’s slums.
TRACK TO TRY: Endless Thoughts