Ally MacLeod has a voice for all the ages: strong, resonant and beautifully controlled – even at her most forceful she makes it sound like the easiest thing in the world. There’s a folk quality to her voice, something like Norma Waterson perhaps, but can hear the country influence in there too, and even a little jazz. Making poetry out of everyday experience, she builds her songs from familiar situations and has a knack of finding the beauty, the dignity and the poignancy in what might seem mundane experiences. Martin Stephenson has opted for a light touch from his production seat, and, though his delicately beautiful guitar work often catches the ear, these polished gems of songs are left to reveal…
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…their qualities little by little.
Ally’s partner in Red Hook Rapids, Donald Forbes, contributes some fine guitar and harmony vocals (in an inversion of the usual male/female vocal thing, it’s Donalds voice that provides the sweetness), Allan Leckie plays keyboards, Carol Thompson is on bass guitar and Penny Costa plays the drums. Everybody plays their part without ever taking the focus from Ally’s singing, and that is just as it should be. The little details of what all these fine players do make themselves known over time, and are a large part of the pleasure of listening to this record over and again, but really, this is mostly about Ally MacLeod’s voice.
Sometimes you discover an artist at a point in their career when there’s a large back catalogue for you to dive into. Astor Place, however, is “the debut album”, so I’ll have to be patient and hope that she gets the chance to record lots (and lots) more music.