Muireann Nic Amhlaoibh Daybreak: fáinne an lae

Chances are you can’t pronounce it but you’ll be wanting to write it down. But fans of authentic Irish music will know Muireann as singer extraordinaire and skilled instrumentalist (flute and whistle) with Waterford’s Danú. Anyone who’s experienced this woman’s significant stage aura will not be surprised at the emotional power of this release — she has a rich, earthy voice that can only be described as being "beautiful.” Clear, fresh and utterly spellbinding, Nic Amhlaoibh’s vocals soar like a bird — never faltering — with minimal accompaniment required. Not unlike expatriate genre-bender, Maura O’Connell, Nic Amhlaoibh has selected a dozen tunes that, like O’Connell, redefine contemporary folk with one foot in tradition. This is epitomised by "Western Highway,” where Nic Amhlaoibh is joined here by its author, Gerry O’Beirne, who also contributes the "Isle of Malachy,” which is transformed into an achingly beautiful Irish jewel of a song. The sprightly "Free and Easy” is ample demonstration of her ability to turn a song to her complete advantage, while her whistle work on the instrumental "Cnocán an Teampaill” presents an equally magical voice. "Seoithin Seothó” — sung in her native Gaelic — is a compassionate lullaby fully exposing the allure of her Irish background. Not surprisingly, one of the disc’s strongest tracks is her intoxicating cover of Richard Thompson’s "Persuasion,” which takes on new life in her care. Her flute work on the instrumental "Humours of Whiskey” is, again, otherworldly in its effect, complimenting the haunting vocal performance provided in "The Emigrant’s Farewell.” Repeat as necessary. (Compass)