Brigid Mae Power: Head Above the Water review – Hard lessons softly sung

Fri, May 29, 2020, 05:00

   
 

Album:
Head Above The Water

Artist:
Brigid Mae Power

Label:
Fire Records

Genre:
Singer / Songwriter

“I was named after you. Oh, where’s the strength that I’m meant to get from you,” sings Brigid Mae Power on I Was Named After You. In a lesson of empathy and the power to change, the Galway singer-songwriter teaches us in three short verses that great emotional obstacles can be overturned: “And now I’ve no doubt why I was named after you, cos it’s the vulnerability that did mend the situation in the end.”

Head Above the Water is the semi-autobiographical third album from the folk-country singer. It was recorded in Glasgow and produced alongside Scottish folk musician Alasdair Roberts and Power’s husband, Peter Broderick, formerly of the Danish indie group Efterklang, Power takes the intimate details of her life – the small moments that change everything – and gives them a certain grandeur. Her lover asks her: “City lights or country skies at night, which do you prefer?” on the opening track On a City Night. A question so simple in its answer, the pair decide where to live together as a team – “The city suits you on a city night” – their union cemented.

With a shrewd eye, she can home in on the decisions – often hard to make – that lead to a healthier life. I Had to Keep My Circle Small is a tale of stoic self-preservation, and her reworking of the traditional song The Blacksmith shows the catastrophic repercussions of lying. Not Yours to Own comes laden with advice to fight for your space in the world and to make sure that your voice is heard, whether it’s a whisper or a shout.

Lyrically she shows incredible caution in not just examining her own feelings but the feelings of others, too. The songs We Weren’t Sure and You Have a Quiet Power demonstrate the virtues of remaining patient when it comes to matters of the heart. Her windswept voice always leads the way in songs that are never pushed beyond a gentle strum of a guitar or a brush of a bodhrán, which means that the weight of her words lands without any confusion.

As the title of the album – and the closing track – suggests, life rarely dishes out an easy hand to anyone but it’s how you face the struggles that matters. Even if she sometimes feels out of her depth, Power remains focused. No decision is rushed and conclusions are reached organically. Softly delivered, these are hard lessons that we should all learn in time.