Talking Elephant 2021
Trading sorrow for the source of sincerity, Irish songstress finds the fount of folk mysteries.
When Linda Moylan laid down a single with Julie Felix in 2020, not long before the elder stateswoman passed away, it was akin to the passing of the baton between two generation of expatriate artists, the latter hailing from America and the former from Éire to land in London and claim a piece of music scene. So Moylan’s sophomore album might not be proverbially different, her debut “Shadow Lands” issued back in 2015, but she set the bar high enough in the interim, and “The Merchant” was bound to live up to the initial promise.
Perhaps influenced by Julie, Linda channels her rootsiness via Appalachian echoes at the start of this records, as her husky voice and acoustic strum on “Old Black Boots” detail the tentative burst of betrayal, building tense sonic structures until Irish tunes rise to the surface once the magnificent balladry and the lady’s deep-cutting delivery, including instrumental passages, lead “Black Is The Colour” beyond the mythical lore. Still, for all the weeping of steel guitar, it’s impossible to ignore the warm intimacy of “Sugar Water” where Moylan’s vocals, spiced up with a fiddle, crawl under the listener’s skin, or avoid the mandolin-sprinkled rustic waltz “Auld Drag” with its communal harmonies and drama that’s well-concealed in its festive swirl.
There’s also poison in the well of Renaissance serenade “Ordinary Merchants” and theatrical “Push” which should shift one’s focus from fairground to vaudeville, the chanteuse’s singing full of pain and panache, while the shanty “Brig Hannah” is given a gutsy groove, as Linda associates herself with a ship and propelling the melody towards the shimmering horizon and blistering hope only to soar on “Hippodrome” – the piano-laden, most delicate number she turns into emotional panorama. Yet if “Mercy” has “Joni” motifs woven into its tender lace, and “Thinking On” – Moylan’s duet with producer Phil Beer, who plays most of the parts on the album – couldn’t be more exquisite, her arresting casting of the ancient spell on “Star Of The County Down” would have made Sandy proud.
However, the solid solemnity of “Glistening Gold” on which Linda shines the brightest is unmistakably – thanks to the preceding tracks – her own, as is the baroque-tinctured lull of “The Eaves” which will bring this record to a close and one’s day to a sweetly fatigued end. When it does, “The Merchant” feels like quite a journey!