Eleanor McEvoy’s new album The Thomas Moore Project is, at first glance at least, a bit of a niche item. Thomas Moore was a 17th Century Irish songwriter and poet whose work has become somewhat neglected in recent times. Moore occupies a similar place in Irish heritage as Robert Burns does in Scotland but while Burns’ works are regularly revived and reinterpreted the world over, Moore’s have fallen out of fashion.

These are songs that McEvoy would have learned at her grandmother’s knee, just like almost every other Irish person of her generation, and if you have any kind of Irish lineage there is a good chance that at least a couple of them will be vaguely familiar. Irrespective of when it was written or how obscure it might be, a good song is a good song and McEvoy’s determination to bring these songs into a modern setting for a contemporary audience is to be applauded.

The songs’ arrangements are reminiscent of those on Van Morrison’s Poetic Champions Compose album but with the 1980s production sheen replaced with a more natural sound. McEvoy has built up a reputation amongst audiophiles for the quality of her recordings and The Thomas Moore Project is no exception. Supported by Damon Butcher on keyboards, Eamonn Nolan on flugelhorn and piccolo trumpet, Eoghan O’Neill on bass and Guy Rickerby on drums, McEvoy deftly handles vocals, guitars, strings, keyboard and percussion as well as arrangements and production.

Believe Me If All These Endearing Young Charms and Oh! Breathe Not His Name worked their spell on me at first listen but I’m still unsure about the jaunty arrangement of The Last Rose Of Summer. Overall though, this is a set of songs that pay homage to Moore’s originals while also bringing them up to date. If you only buy one album of songs by a 17th Century Irish songwriter this year, make it this one.

John Scott

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