Niamh Regan: Hemet review – Memorable debut from Galway singer

Thanks to her attention to detail, Regan has presented tunes with a collective distinctive oomph

    
Artist: Niamh Regan
Genre: Singer / Songwriter
Label: Black Gate Records

Hemet may be Niamh Regan’s debut album, but there is nothing unsophisticated about her work. The Galway-based songwriter has laboured for some years on the songs that feature on Hemet (so named after the Californian desert town where her husband is from), so to say she has fine-tuned them within a whisper of their lives is an understatement.

Such attention to detail has proved more than worthwhile – having lived with and in them for so long, Regan has inched her way out of early influences (Laura Marling, Karen Dalton, Nick Drake, et al) to present tunes with a collective distinctive oomph.

Crucially, it helps that the lyrics are eager to tell a personal story. The beans are spilled in every song, from How About that Coffee’s fully extinguished old flame (“Are you still singing? And writing in the afternoons? Don’t know if you know I’m married, having a baby soon”) to Sweetest Drop’s sense of longing (“You’re the sweetest drop that I ever had, and I wouldn’t call it thirst compared to what I had for you”).

The cherry on top is understated, textured music that takes in a variety of instruments, including cello, viola, mandolin, piano, trombone, clarinet, double bass, synths and keyboards. The end result is a quiet and determined triumph that will surely hang around long after 2020 has curled up and withered.

Tony Clayton-Lea

Tony Clayton-Lea

Tony Clayton-Lea is a contributor to The Irish Times specialising in popular culture