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Nancy Kerr - Instar (Little Dish Records)
There are one or two things we can always rely on when it comes to Nancy Kerr. First there's the confident and assured voice which never seems to falter, a 'folk' voice whose owner takes care to ensure there's never a wasted syllable or note. We can also rely on Nancy Kerr to be surrounded by choice musicians as she is in the case of her new release INSTAR. Then there's the honesty of her lyrics and indeed her lyricism, songs of which we have come to expect nothing short of quality. So, there are one or two expectations before the needle even hits the groove (or whatever the terminology is for compact discs). What I didn't expect from INSTAR was to be listening to the album almost constantly throughout the month of July, a month that culminated in the singer and her band of sweet visitors, launching the album with a performance on the main stage at the Cambridge Folk Festival. With Rowan Rheingans (a musician who popped up all over the place during the festival, not only with this band but also with Lady Maisery and the Songs of Separation project), husband and long-time musical collaborator James Fagan on guitar and bouzouki, Tim Yates on double bass (replaced by Rick Foot at the launch), Tom Wright on a variety of instruments not least drums and who also produces, Greg Russell on electric guitar and CJ Hillman guesting on pedal-steel, the Sweet Visitor Band creates a panoramic soundscape for these songs to rest. Rowan Rheingans' bansitar (a banjo that sounds like a sitar), provides some of the album's most evocative sounds, notably on the songs Kingdom and Seven Notes (Adieu My Love). Throughout the album, made up of thirteen self-penned songs, covering such subjects as gender identity, human rights, women's freedom, austerity, tolerence and a whole host of other topics, we sense that the musicians involved instinctively suspected that they were making something rather special. I think their suspicions were correct.