Friday, July 8, 2011

Jacqui Sharkey – A New Dawn (CD Review)


Jacqui Sharkey – A New Dawn (CD Review)



1. This Shirt 2. Sand and Water 3. You Needed Me 4. Restless Heart 5. Midnight Symphony
6. She Can’t Save Him 7. Be My Valentine 8. If I Fell From Grace With You
9. When Halley Came To Jackson 10. I’m Not Lisa 11. Shut Up And Kiss Me 12. When I Dream

Label - 2011 Jacqui Sharkey © Jacqui Sharkey - SMG Media (self release)
CDA-001
UPC - 5060051827129
Time - 43:34
Release Date - 24 March 2011 (Digital)
Lyrics – No
Www1/2

A NEW DAWN is the debut album for singer songwriter Jacqui Sharkey who is based in Bunbeg, a small fishing village in the heart of Gweedore in West Donegal, Ireland. In fact Celtic New Age artist Enya also hails from the same area. Jacqui grew up in Glasgow, Scotland and began her musically career at the age of 17 playing at various venues in the city. In 1990 she moved to Donegal returning to her roots to a place where her family, generations back, resided. For many years she was a keyboard player and lead singer for a band called The Jury’s Out performing a wide range of styles from Pop, Rock, Country rock, Folk and traditional music. She also played a number of leading roles in Musical theatre (See photo 'All That Jazz' from the musical 'Chicago')

This project has been a long time coming and on her website she it says “she hopes this be first of many”. She dedicates the album to her parents, she co-produced it with Seamus McGee and it was recorded in a matter of weeks at SMG Media studios, Gaoth Dobhair in Co. Donegal. On the 12-tracks Sharkey self pens one of the songs and co-writes on another, the remaining 10 are cover versions which include many of my personal favourites in country music and are tracks that have resonated with her other the years. The studio players include a bevy of top musicians who are credited on many albums and have toured with the likes of Daniel O’Donnell, Majella O’Donnell, Dominic Kirwan, Collin Raye, Billie Joe Spears, Hal Ketchum and Kim Richey.
Before mentioning the music the tray inlay, sleeve and CD are beautifully presented with location shots of the Donegal countryside and coastline which appear on Jacqui’s Facebook page (See Pic 1 - Pic 2 - Pic 3)

The gentle and comforting opener ‘This Shirt’ is one of 3 songs from the pen of Mary Chapin Carpenter this being drawn from her 1987 Album STATE OF THE HEART. Jacqui offers heartfelt emotion and shines likes its silver buttons as she captures the storyline in which this article of clothing has a grand old history symbolizing a woman's life and her memories. Founding member of The Greencards and freelance musician Eamon McLoughlin provides a tasteful and aching violin and then a joyful fiddle on Chapin’s ‘When Halley Came To Jackson’ (Live Video) from SHOOTING STRAIGHT IN THE DARK. In the liner notes Jacqui pokes fun at herself confessing when she first became acquainted with the song she wondered who “Halley” was. The song tells the tale of Halley’s Comet and its appearance in the town in 1910 and then the baby sleeping in daddy’s arms witnesses its revisit in the heavenly skies 76-years on. Sharkey uses similar phrasing on MCC’s lively ‘Shut Up And Kiss Me’ as she and the band have fun. Popular Irish drummer Billy Borgoyne was recruited for this one.

Sharkey considers it a privilege to cut Beth Nielsen Chapman’s career song ‘Sand and Water’ which helped the songwriter come to terms with the loss of her husband Ernest in 1994. It’s always dangerous territory covering such a well-known and personal score but Jacqui does it justice, the focus is very much on the song. The vocal is soulful, beautiful and effecting and with subtle changes to the original composition and delicate piano licks (Raymond McLoughlin) the emotions wash gently as waves break on the sunny Donegal shoreline.

Sharkey tackles Randy Goodrum’s unconditional love song ‘You Needed Me’ from 1978, a much-loved track from her childhood days when raiding her parent’s record collection. It was a #1 hit for Anne Murray in America and gave Irish boy band Boyzone a chart topper in the UK in May 1999. Jacqui’s voice has an uncanny resemblance to the aforementioned Canadian songstress and her lower-register is equally delicious. The video which appeared on Showcase TV was my introduction to the Donegal artist.

The mid-tempo sweet love song ‘Restless Heart ‘, was written by her good friend Ian Smith who also lends his services on acoustic guitar, backing and harmony vocals. Hailing originally from Kilmarnock, Scotland he moved to Donegal to become part of its musical community in a country steeped in music. Sharkey co-writes with Smith on ‘Midnight Symphony’, a beautiful tender ballad and a compelling melodic piece. Inspired late at night while a storm lashed the wild coast the narrator has faith that her “Heathcliff” will one day appear and fulfil her dreams as she sings: Someday I know you’d be smiling at me / The way I’m seen you smile a thousand times / Someday I know you’ll be holding me/ Like you’ve been all those nights in my mind.

Jacqui wraps herself around every word on the gorgeous lilting piano ballad ‘She Can’t Save Him’, in which a helpless wife is powerless to deal with her partner’s addition. As the electric guitar chords (Matthew Curran) cry out she acknowledges that fact with the words: And that day she’ll know she hasn’t failed ‘Cause nothing can change until he saves himself. It was first cut by Lisa Brokop on her self titled album in 1995. Its writers Bob Regan and Liz Hengber have written some of Reba McEntire’s finest material and it also appeared on her DUETS album with Trisha Yearwood.

On the soothing ‘Be My Valentine’, which features soft layers of cello, piano, electric guitar and percussion, Jacqui writes of finding that special person and a lifetime friend. The poetic ‘If I Fell From Grace With You’ (written by Lisa Aschmann and Tom Kimmel) has vibes of an old Anglican hymn. With its pleasing arrangement and the classy vocal it makes the heart melt and this wonderful track provides an album highlight. Jacqui met Kimball at the Bluebird CafĂ© the songwriter’s mecca in Nashville. A writer whose songs have been recorded by Joe Cocker, John Farnham and in country circles ‘Never Saw Blue Like That’ (Shawn Colvin) and ‘The Blue Train’ (Linda Ronstadt).

Jessi Colters major hit ‘I’m Not Lisa’ from 1975 gets a dusting off and fresh treatment. Tanya Tucker and Elizabeth Cook are just two who also took a shine to this number.

Sandy Mason's torch song ‘When I Dream’ closes out the record and was the debut single released in October 2010 (see video). The best-known versions are by Willie Nelson and most notably Crystal Gayle, when it reached #3 for her on the Billboard charts in 1979. Sharkey’s own take radiates similar warmth on this timeless classic.

So the jury’s out and as a new dawn breaks what’s the verdict? - Those that have enjoyed the music of Anne Murray (now retired) over the years will be drawn to this easy listening country album and feel that the baton has been laid in the palm of Jacqui Sharkey. With songs like ‘Midnight Symphony’ it is hoped that her creative song writing juices will flow resulting in a discography and song catalogue all of her own.


Livewire



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