Despite having penned the title song of Ireland’s biggest-selling album, A Woman’s Heart, and releasing more than a dozen albums over the last couple of decades, Eleanor McEvoy is still something of a well-kept secret. Over the last few years she has become increasingly appreciated in audiophile circles for the recording quality of her albums, with one hifi magazine awarding its Album Of The Year accolade to three of her releases.Last year’s Naked Music was recorded live in the studio with just Eleanor and her guitar. Tonight’s show is equally intimate; McEvoy showcasing her songs and her voice and accompanying herself on acoustic and electric guitar, piano and violin.

McEvoy begins with a clutch of songs from Naked Music. Look Like Me takes a swipe at the fashion industry and the pressures it puts on people to conform to a particular style. Deliver Me castigates the Catholic Church for its all too human failings and, coming from an Irish Catholic upbringing, it’s a subject that McEvoy is well-qualified to comment on. McEvoy’s voice is a wonderful thing; is is both earthy and pure, her accent undisguised, switching from desire to derision as the songs demand.

As a songwriter, McEvoy knows how to get the best out of other people’s songs as well as her own and over the course of the evening we are treated to a beautiful interpretation of The Bech Boys’ God Only Knows, a version of The Pointer Sisters’ Slow Hand that virtually drips with lubriciousness and a stunning reading of Marvin Gaye’s Mercy Mercy Me which seems even more relevant today than it was when it was recorded

McEvoy’s new album is a tribute to Thomas Moore, a sixteenth-century Irish poet and songwriter. McEvoy explains that Moore’s songs are no longer highly regarded in Ireland but that she had always loved them wanted to bring them up to date. She sings the first of these songs, Oh Breathe Not His Name, accompanied only by two boxes of matches, spilling some of the contents out on to the floor until the desired degree of rattle is achieved. Anticipation of the possibility of combustion as she vigorously shakes the boxes distracts slightly – but only slightly – from a lovely vocal.

The melody of Believe Me If All These Endearing Young Charms is possibly best known as the basis for a running gag of several Bugs Bunny cartoons but McEvoy sets it within a swooning, cyclical electric guitar figure, laying its beauty bare.

Returning to her own material, McEvoy displays her evident strengths as a musician and songwriter and her between-song banter keeps the audience engaged. She even manages to be polite to a self confessed Trump admirer, although I suspect her tongue might have been sore from biting back a less considerate response. Finishing with Only A Woman’s Heart and a cover of Paul Brady’s Homes Of Donegal, tonight’s show makes it clear why songwriters such as Rodney Crowell, Lloyd Cole and Dave Rotheray line up to work with Eleanor McEvoy. “Thank God I can do this” she says at one point “because I’m no good at anything else.” Being good at anything else isn’t really anything she needs to worry about.

John Scott

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