SEEING as it was her last gig of the year, the Irish-born, Edinburgh-based singer Heidi Talbot laid on an array of extra pre-Christmas treats for her adoptive home crowd.
An expanded, crème de-la-crème backing line-up of husband John McCusker on fiddle, cittern and whistle, accordionist Andy Cutting, guitarist Ian Carr and double bassist Ewen Vernal was further swelled by two more special guests, Gaelic singing star Julie Fowlis and Admiral Fallow frontman Louis Abbott.
Having released her latest solo album, Angels Without Wings, earlier this year, Talbot displayed the full breadth of her tastes and talents, including traditional and self-penned material alongside covers of songs by Tom Waits, Tim O’Brien, Sandy Denny and Boo Hewerdine, plus tracks co-written with both Abbott and King Creosote. While her voice’s most immediate characteristics are its dulcet sweetness and spun-glass delicacy, this diversity of styles and moods revealed all its subtleties of shade and expression, from playful asperity in Irish courting ballad The Shepherd Lad to a suitably hearty rendition of sea shanty Sally Brown; the dark-edged mischief of Bedlam Boys to the tender regret of O’Brien’s Wines and Roses. The aforementioned King Creosote co-write, Button Up – here reworked as a gorgeous duet with Abbott – was another highlight. The accompanying instrumental timbres and textures were impeccably aligned, in arrangements ranging from lush through punchy to exquisitely sparse, with band members and guests also cutting loose in several excellent tune sets.