Concert review: Maeve Gilchrist

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MAEVE GILCHRIST THE VILLAGE, LEITH ***

BACK in her home town for the Scottish launch of her second album, Song of Delight, harpist and singer Maeve Gilchrist – who is based in Boston – delighted a near-capacity crowd with her distinctive alloy of folk, jazz and pop elements, variously combined in both traditional and original material, plus the odd contemporary cover.

In this last category, her beautifully paced and phrased version of Richard Thompson's Beeswing was among the standouts, movingly imbued with intensity of feeling. Others included the instrumentals Kate's Journey, inspired by the story of Gilchrist's Irish great-great-grandmother, evoking the Atlantic swell on her journey from Dublin to Wyoming, and the gently joyous slow waltz Song For Sadie, written to welcome a friend's new baby. Gilchrist's boldly hued, nimble playing was strongly complemented by her regular accompanist, double bassist Aidan O'Donnell, alternately sparring with her jazzier workouts and resonantly anchoring the harp's flightier or more delicate passages.

Her songwriting proved more of a mixed bag, both it and her vocal approach sounding at times – in Jonathan, for instance, or the new album's title track – as though they tried to borrow from the melodic skittishness of scatting, or the rapid progressions of her instrument: attempts which, while admirably ambitious, resulted in overcrowded lyrics, struggling scansion and breathless delivery. Less wordily complex numbers like Ostinato and Winter Wind worked better, displaying Gilchrist's vivid, liquid vocals to beguiling advantage.

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