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Thea Gilmore


Country of origin:

England

Type of music generally:

Alternative folk/rock

Status:

Most recent release, Ghosts And Graffiti (2015)

See also:

Thea Gilmore's site

Wikipedia's entry on Thea Gilmore

Comparisons:

Ani Difranco, PJ Harvey

Covers/own material:

Own

General comments:

Thea Gilmore is a smart, edgy folk-rock singer with lyrics that touch on politics, religion, and other social issues. (JoAnn Whetsell)

Comments about live performance:

With a rich, strong voice and really sharp lyrics (and, yes, great tunes) she definitely made an impression on me, and I will definitely be seeking out her music. She was also highly personable, with a good sense of humour. (5/01)

     On a warm, muggy night, this was probably the hottest, sweatiest, most crowded gig I've been to for a while, but a definitely good vibe for Thea. And she paid it back in spades. Looking particularly rock chick in a sleeveless t-shirt, she fronted a really tight band, and came across as fun, down-to-earth and genuinely pleased to be there. I thought she'd be mostly showcasing her upcoming album, Avalanche, but after playing a handful of songs from that, she varied the repertoire and threw in many from Rules for Jokers and even a couple from Songs from the Gutter. Although she's an acoustic guitar player, she didn't play much of it last night, content to let the band carry the instrumental weight (which they did with amazing versatility) and concentrate on the singing. It's hard to describe her voice: it's limited, but she works brilliantly within its limits: kind of a lower-key Joni Mitchell with a blues/folk/almost jazz-like bent, without Joni's high bits or vocal acrobatics.
     Her talent—her great talent—is for a good tune and stunning, kaleidoscopic lyrical twists, and she can go (as she did) from the stomping blues of "Mud on My Shoe" to the haunting, desolate, small-wee-hours beauty of "Inverigo". Covers, too: she did a folked-up acoustic version of "Bad Moon Rising" which was stunning. All the new songs, unfamiliar as they were, sounded fantastic, too. Driving, forceful, focussed and immediate. If this is anything to judge by, Avalanche is going to be a great album. The acid test? My girlfriend— espite the wilting heat, the crowds and the lack of oxygen—thought it was brilliant, and is now a fan. (7/03)

     Jeez, this was GOOD.
     Last night, Thea played the Scala. When she came on, I thought she looked tired, and after the first number she admitted she had flu, and asked us to excuse her if she coughed, spluttered and/or passed out. The first few numbers suffered from a slightly dodgy sound balance, which threatened to drown out her vocals and blur the dynamics altogether, but after a brief acoustic portion (including the most wondrously haunting cover of "Bad Moon Rising") everything seemed to click and the evening took flight. Thea rose above her illness with grace and humour, performing for an hour and a half with commitment and an obvious sense of enjoyment, and managed to fill the space with one hell of a vibe. She played, naturally, a lot from her new one, Avalanche, and it was good to hear them stripped of the production of the disc—"Mainstream" sounded particularly reenergised, and she dedicated "Pirate Moon" to (Elliot Smith. She dipped into her back catalogue, as well, playing "Generation Y" from The Lipstick Conspiracies and healthy doses of Rules for Jokers (including a stunning "Keep Up" which she started off a cappella) and Songs from the Gutter. It was a fantastic evening, and when she came on for her first encore ("What a wanky ritual that is, eh?" she asked, echoing the thoughts of so many of us) she gave us a heartbreaking, simple version of Phil Ochs' "When I'm gone" and followed it with the lovely, haunting "Inverigo". I can honestly say this is the first gig that I've come close to weeping at. In a good way. She came back for another encore, and by her last song, the much-requested and stunning "Heartstring Blues", her voice was beginning to show the strain, but she gave it her all. When she went off and the lights came up, I was grinning like a maniac, and practically floated out of the place.
     It had to be one of the best concerts I've been to in a long time, if not ever, satisfying on almost all accounts (okay, I'd of loved to hear "God Knows"), and I know for sure that there's no doubt: Thea Gilmore deserves to be massive. (11/03)

Nothing had prepared me for this gig, I have to say. Hot and weary and not in the best of moods, my default cynical state had already decided exactly what I was going to see. Nice to know that I can still be surprised. to say the least. I've never been so happy to be so confounded.
     A low-key and simple set-up, an acoustic set consisting of Thea on guitar and vocals, Nigel Stonier on guitar, vocals, harmonica and piano, and a multi-talented woman called Fluff who managed cello, viola, guitar and backing vocals. I predicted something laid-back and....well, predictable, but had sorely underestimated Thea and my own capacity to love music.
     She drew mostly from Liejacker, her new album with a few songs from Rules for Jokers, one from Avalanche and one from Harpo's Ghost and everything was great until Nigel took to the piano, Fluff took to the wings and Thea took to the mic for a spare, haunting "Icarus Wind", at which point I thought...wow.
     Just...wow. I almost wept.
     From then on, the evening was more than just "great". It became one of the all-time greats, for me, a truly incredible experience. A version of "This Girl Is Taking Bets", the number that—on the last tour—got the full electric treatment with Erin McKeown lending her guitar talents, this time round had only Nigel on acoustic guitar and Fluff laying down spiralling viola lines while Thea delivered her vocal with a manic energy and glee that made the air crackle. "Saviours and All" now contained a simple but devastatingly effective a capella vocal break, a new song called "God's Got Nothing On You", with just Thea on guitar and vocals, was utterly thrilling, and a traditional protest/folk song, the name of which I didn't catch, was enthralling. Sometimes I broke open with laughter, sometimes I broke down with tears. Sometimes it was hard to tell which was which.
     For "When I Get Back to Shore", people were invited up on stage to sing along. Us being English, only about a dozen did, but apparently it beat the count in Glasgow, where only one person got up. The finale was a version of "The Lower Road" that ended with Nigel and Fluff walking offstage and leaving Thea to finish the song alone.
     Throughout, as I've previously noted, Thea's voice was a wondrous, sensuous, bluesy thing, richer than it's ever been before and more beautiful than I'd ever imagined.
     I left stunned and enchanted. Not much more one can ask from a gig, really. (6/08)

This gig I was very much looking forward to, as Thea is touring her excellent seasonal album, Strange Communion, and the Bush Hall is my favourite venue in London. So, I'd love to go on about what a brilliant gig it was, and how excellent the opening act (Lindisfarne's Rod Clements) was, with his brilliant dobro slide guitar technique and charm; I'd love to elaborate on the set list, drawing not only from the new album but also including a sublime cover of "Blue Christmas" with just her and Nigel's acoustic guitar, and how she previewed a fun new song with the chorus that the entire audience was invited to shout out: "Oh, come on!" and about the fun bit at the encore when an audience member got to choose, by throwing a dart at a board, a cheesy Christmas song for them to perform with no rehearsal, which led to a great, bluesy version of "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas" with Thea clutching the lyric sheet and Rod Clements helping out on slide acoustic guitar. I'd love to say what a great gig it was, because I certainly got the impression it was. Unfortunately, it was totally blighted by the two tossers in front of me, who turned out to be the "official" video chroniclers of the event. They'd elbowed their way to the front with their video cameras 10 minutes into the set, put themselves right in front of me and then talked, all the way through, in loud whispers.
     Sigh. (12/09)

Thea was playing in this intimate club with a full band, including bassist, additional guitarist and drummer (with the incomparable Fluff on violin and percussion and backing vocals) and it was a great, tight, full-on sound. The song selection was interesting, starting with a more acoustic bent—just Thea, Nigel and Fluff onstage for "Saviours and All" and then Fluff absenting herself while Nigel accompanied Thea on a cover of the old hit, "You Belong to Me" (one of those songs my father used to hum to himself) and a spare, haunting "That's How the Love Gets In". This seemed an odd place for it, at the start, but I guess I'm just used to its placing in the album, where it comes after the frantic, dangerous "Not alone". The band came on and most of Murphy's Heart was performed, as well as, along the way, the old civil rights folk song "Keep Your Eyes on the Prize" (thrilling harmonies, there) and a couple of songs previously available only to the Angels (her subscription service) and finishing with "Come Up", which was only on the US version of Liejacker. It was a great concert, although not, I thought, the best I've seen of hers. The structure didn't seem to flow and they just seemed to be hitting their stride with a really punchy, pogo-inducing version of "Mainstream" when it was pretty much all over. I didn't get the hairs standing up at the back of my neck as I have in her best gigs, and the ending, with the upbeat "Come Up", left me without a sense of closure—I'd hoped for a final, come-down song like "The Parting Song" or even "Wondrous Thing" from her latest, which disappointingly went unplayed. Nothing at all from Harpo's Ghost which, given the full band, seemed strange; nothing from Songs from the Gutter and only "Old Soul" from Liejacker and a couple from Rules for Jokers. The evening was chock full o' highlights—the covers and rarities, a frightening version of "Not Alone" and a joyous "Come Up", but somehow it didn't cohere the organic, soul-shaking experience I've had before. I don't think I've ever seen her be less than brilliant (although the Harpo's Ghost tour comes close), there are just—with her—different levels of brilliant. (10/10)

Not a bad night with Thea Gilmore last night at the Union Chapel in London, a lovely little venue. Thea opened with just her and Nigel duetting on "Old Soul", her hymn to her unborn child—she's six months pregnant, and that was the last time in the evening she strapped on a guitar. Then a new version of her band (albeit with some veteran members) came out and, after a beautifully haunting version of "Girl from the North Country", launched into the whole of John Wesley Harding. There were some great moments along the way, but I'm still not convinced. Her "All Along the Watchtower", while a still a bit too laid back, had more of an urgency about it than the CD version, and the quieter songs like "I Am a Lonesome Hobo" and "Pity the Poor Immigrant" came across best, with a real simplistic beauty, the former preceded by a fantastic a cappella introduction by Thea that wasn't on the album. Chat was at a minimum, although when Thea first read an extract from Bob's original liner notes and later, before "Watchtower", read the relevant piece out of the Bible, I thought there was going to be a flow and concept. This didn't last, and there were longueurs while the band tuned and Thea looked on, smiling silently. She did, at least, seem somewhat more engaged than the last time I saw her live, and seemed to be enjoying herself. The album out of the way, the band then did a few Thea numbers, starting with "This Girl is Taking Bets", complete with a band member doing cue cards a la Bob's "Subterranean Homesick Blues". Then a stunning version of "Inverigo", a rare outing for "And We'll Dance" and, to wrap it up, a cover of an offbeat Dylan song (I forget the name), which was also excellent. Oh, and there was a round of "Happy Birthday to You" for Bob at one point. All in all, a very pleasant evening if not exactly moving, although my partner, who is more of the Dylan generation and who has fond memories of the original, thoroughly enjoyed it. (5/11, adamk@zoom.co.uk)

Thea Gilmore's Wintertide Tour. Thea's voice was clear last night, despite her warning us about how, during this tour, she's been a germ carrier and has been fighting off a chest infection, meaning that her voice could shift from sounding like Charlotte Church to resembling that of Leonard Cohen in 2.5 seconds.
     Nigel Stonier was the opening act, playing songs from his own albums on acoustic guitar. The man is a damned fine songwriter and guitarist, and he can sing also. Good stuff. Later on, it was Thea on acoustic guitar and vocals, Nigel also on acoustic guitar (it was an acoustic night) and backing vocals, and Fluff on violin, whistles and various other instruments and backing vocals. That was the line-up except for one song when four-year-old Egan Stonier ran on-stage clutching a child's-size violin. I'm not sure if he was miked up, but when it was time for Fluff to play, she'd cue him and they'd play together. In between, he'd run between Fluff and his father, on opposite sides of the stage, whilst Mum sang in the middle. He earned a round of applause, and Thea joked that if she trained him up now, he could take over for her in a few years.
     They didn't have the dartboard of cheesy Christmas songs as they did last year, where an audience member would throw a dart and they'd play the song. (Our gig had "Winter Wonderland".) The bulk of the evening's material was pulled from Thea's far more cynical seasonal offering, Strange Communion, which was, as Nigel confirmed earlier, the reason for touring when the weather was so bad. Other music was played also, though, with the audience clapping appreciatively when songs such as "Old Soul" started.
     An interesting political note. Before launching into "God's Got Nothing on You", the second song on Murphy's Heart, Thea's latest release, and the one I loved so much I started hitting the repeat button over and over again, she discussed how people will tell her what her songs are about. With this one, people have been telling her it's an excellent song about Tony Blair. She merely smiled and said how now, with our current government, there are so many people it could be about. How true, alas.
     Anyway, it was a good closing night gig, and I'm glad we ventured out into the cold for it. (12/10, Silme@ix.netcom.com)

Recommended first album:

Murphy's Heart, but Rules for Jokers is probably the easiest to find in the US

Recordings:


Burning Dorothy

Release info:

1998—Shameless—shame 1200

Availability:

U.K.

Ecto priority:

Recommended

Group members:

Thea Gilmore—vocals, acoustic guitar

Guest artists:

Nigel Stonier—guitar, acoustic guitar, bass, keyboards, mandolin, vocals
Mark Tucker—guitar, darabuka
Jim Bennion—guitar on 2 tracks
Paul Burgess—drums, percussion

Produced by:

Nigel Stonier and Mark Tucker

Comments:

I got the disc because of an ad and review I saw in Mojo that compared her to Ani Difranco. She's not really like her, except she has more interesting lyrics than most and does that same combination of contemporary folk and alt/pop rock. Rather like Susan McKeown (vocals) meets pre-Dilate Ani Difranco (sound). Though perhaps she doesn't have quite the vocal or songwriting range of those artists she approaches them, this is a very enjoyable debut disc and the songs really stuck in my head. It's a keeper.
     She's got a rich, kinda deep voice without a tremendous range, but she knows how to use what she does have. The songs are intense and ironic (I guess another Ani-like characteristic), mostly rockers with softer moments. (Neile)

The Lipstick Conspiracies

Release info:

2000—The Naim Label, Southampton Road, Salisbury, Wiltshire, SP1 2LN, England—naim CD046

Availability:

U.K.

Ecto priority:

Recommended

Group members:

Thea Gilmore—lead and backing vocals, acoustic guitar, cimbala

Guest artists:

Nigel Stonier—acoustic guitar, piano, mandolin, electric guitar (4), mellotron (2), backing vocals
Chris Sheehan—lead & rhythm electric guitars
Rod Clements—bass guitar, dobro (5), electric slide (10)
Jonny Bridgewood—double bass (4, 5, 9)
Dave "Munch" Moore—Hammond organ (9), Wurlitzer piano (4), Clavinet (4)
Roy Martin—drums, percussion
Paul Burgess—drums (2), percussion (1, 2, 8)
Ewan Davies—kalimba (3), programming (4)
The Testosterone Chorus (Nigel Stonier, Chris Sheehan, Roy Martin, Rod Clements)—vocals (1)

Produced by:

Nigel Stonier

Comments:

The Lipstick Conspiracies reminds me very much of Thea Gilmore's first album that I also quite liked, Burning Dorothy. They're very in the angry woman contemporary folk mode that so many artists are working in now, but there's something fresh about Thea Gilmore that I really like. It's the combination: her tunes and lyrics and her voice are strong and she manages to make them edgy without being strident. A breath of fresh air. (Neile)

The earliest and the most pop/rock influenced of the three albums I own. (JoAnn Whetsell)


As If ep

Release info:

2001—Flying Sparks Records—TDBEP0054

Availability:

Limited edition numbered ep; available from website

Ecto priority:

Highly recommended for Thea Gilmore fans

Group members:

Thea Gilmore

Guest artists:

Nigel Stonier
Ian Thomas—drums (1,2) Robbie McIntosh—lead guitar (1,2)

Produced by:

Nigel Stornier

Comments:

A 6-track ep, one of which is a cover song. A fine collection of Thea Glmore's work, with songs ranging from the energetic to the dreamy, all of course with her biting lyrics. (Neile)

Rules for Jokers

Release info:

2002—Flying Sparks Records—7 4343 2

Availability:

Wide

Ecto priority:

Highly recommended

Group members:

Thea Gilmore—acoustic guitar, electric guitar, piano, kalimba, cimbala, mbira, voice

Guest artists:

Nigel Stonier—acoustic and electric guitars, bass, piano, organ, harmonica, voice
Robbie McIntosh—electric guitars, acoustic slide, voice
Ian Thomas—drums, percussion, griddle pan on track 7
Oliver Kraus—cello
David Coulter—saw, tenor banjo, q-chord, slide didgeridoo, jaw harp, accordion
Dave "Munch" Moore—organ on track 13, harpsichord
Ewan Davies—percussion, organ on track 5, blue tube, finger cymbals, voice
Freyja Gilmore—voice on tracks 5, 10, and 13
Will Bartle—voice, cymbal on track 7
Sarah Jane Morris—voice on track 12
Steve Menzies—voice on track 12

Produced by:

Nigel Stonier

Comments:

I saw Thea opening for Tom McRae last summer, and thought she was really good. I still kick myself for not picking up her Lipstick Conspiracies when it surfaced at my fave Soho shop for a fiver, but I got her most recent album, Rules for Jokers, which is definitely ecto material and well worth checking out. It didn't grab me immediately, and her voice doesn't have much range or variety, but she's got a mean way with a lyric. (adamk@zoom.co.uk)

Still not sure how to describe this (somewhere between Sheryl Crow and PJ Harvey? no, that's not really it either) but I do love it. Edgy lyrics and not-quite-as-edgy guitar and vocals. (JoAnn Whetsell)


Songs From the Gutter

Release info:

2002—Flying Sparks Records Limited—TDBCD066

Availability:

Available from website

Ecto priority:

Recommended

Group members:

Thea Gilmore

Guest artists:

Rod Clements
Justin Richards
Ian Brown

Produced by:

Nigel Stonier

Comments:

Songs from the Gutter includes a bonus cd of unreleased material, Songs, and it sounds great: rockier than Rules for Jokers, but verbally as clever and as cutting as ever. (adamk@zoom.co.uk)

Avalanche

Release info:

2003—Hungry Dog Records—YRGNUHA1

Availability:

Wide in U.K.

Ecto priority:

Highly recommended

Group members:

Thea Gilmore—vocals, acoustic guitar, electric guitar, saw, xylophone, piano, melodica

Guest artists:

Nigel Stonier—acoustic guitar, electric guitar, keyboards, programming, Moog, Wurlitzer, bass, backing vocals, Rhodes, gut-string guitar
Paul Beavis—drums, percussion
Robbie McIntosh—electric guitar, National guitar, backing vocals
Jo Wadeson—bass
Mike Cave—programming, drums, 808 programmming, cymbal
Dylan Gallagher—programming
Dave Hull-Denholm, Freya Gilmore—backing vocals
Dave "Munch" Moore—Hammond organ
Oliver Kraus—cello
Ewan Davis—musical box

Produced by:

Nigel Stonier

Comments:

Everyone is right—Avalanche is her best album yet. The songs are especially urgent and compelling (with the exception of the way too I've-heard-this-same-song-dozens-of-times single "Juliet (Keep That in Mind)"—yuck!—I also find something just a little mean-spirited about the lyrics in "Juliet", which I don't in her other songs). So—skip over "Juliet" and listen carefully to the lyrics in the rest of this wonderful album. They will make you smirk and laugh and smart just a little from the barbs, and the tunes will stick in your head in a big way. All the rest of the tracks on this album make me want to hit repeat to hear them again, and when they're not playing on the cd player, they're playing in my head. I could name almost every song on the slbum, but my favourite tracks are the tough "Rags and Bones" and "Heard You Heard", and the yearning "Eight Months". The push she's getting in the U.K. for this album is right on—this should be her breakthrough album. (Neile)

Loftmusic

Release info:

2003—Hungry Dog Records—YRGNUHA2

Availability:

Website and live shows; some stores like Amazon.com are carrying it as an import

Ecto priority:

Highly recommended

Group members:

Thea Gilmore—vocals, instruments

Guest artists:

Nigel Stonier—instruments
Mike Cave—instruments
Jim Kirkpatrick—National Steel on track 7

Produced by:

Nigel Stonier, Mike Cave

Comments:

Loftmusic is one of those things she sold through gigs for a long time and demand was good enough for her to decide to go public, as it were. There's a lot of good stuff in Loft Music, in particular her version of "Bad Moon Rising". It gets a bit mushy in the middle—her version of Neil Young's "Old Laughing Lady", in particular, is kind of formless—but it's short and sweet and full of goodness, and manages to avoid all the cliches you'd expect—no Drake, no Dylan, no Mitchell. (adamk@zoom.co.uk)

Loftmusic, Thea's collection of covers, is a great mellow album, a bit like Songs from the Gutter, and an excellent counterpoint to the more aggressive and vibrant alternative rock of Avalanche. The closet song on that album might be "Razor Valentine." I can't comment on how the songs differ from their originals as I don't know any of the originals, but I'm very glad to know Thea's versions. (JoAnn Whetsell)


Harpo's Ghost

Release info:

2006—Sanctuary Records—SANCD394

Availability:

Wide

Ecto priority:

Highly recommended

Group members:

Thea Gilmore—lead and backing vocals, acoustic guitar, electric guitar, harmonium, whistle

Guest artists:

Nigel Stonier—electric guitar, acoustic guitar, Wurlitzer piano, Hammond organ, harmonium, harmonica, bass pedals, organ, dulcimer, ukulele, backing vocals
Jim Kirkpatrick—electric guitars, dobro, backing vocals
Eric "Roscoe" Ambel—electric guitars, harmonium
Steve Evans—electric guitar, Hammond organ, Wurlitzer piano
James Hallawell—Hammond organ
Jo Wadeson—bass
Paul Beavis—drums, percussion
John Tonks—drums, percussion
Dave Hull Denholm—acoustic guitar, backing vocals, harmony vocals
Ewan Davies—electric guitar, e-bow electric guitar, percussion, programming
Ian Thompson—bass
Laura Reid—cello
Kathryn Williams—backing vocals
Mary Lee Kortez—backing vocals

Produced by:

Nigel Stonier

Comments:

I've been listening to Harpo's Ghost, her new one, and my feelings are decidedly mixed: There are some fantastic songs on it—"Everybody's Numb" thunders along nastily, "Call Me Darling" is surprisingly good for such a sentiment, and really catchy, while "We Built a Monster" is one of her best. Unfortunately, sometime around the middle, there's a run of songs—"The List", "Whistle and Steam", "Going Down" and "Contessa"—that I forget I've heard almost as soon as I've listened to them. It finishes with the wonderful "Slow Journey II," and the hidden track "Play Until the Bottle's Gone" has been a live fave for a while, my only caveat being that I think it belongs in the main flow of the album. The single, "Cheap Tricks" has a certain rocky charm and a great bass break, but I still don't think it's representative of her best...the b-sides are actually much better. I was hoping that this album would be THE ONE, if you know what I mean, but it's....it's not quite, I fear.
     Still, there's time to grow, and I've found albums often come alive when you have a live performance memory to tie them to. I've got my tickets to see her. (adamk@zoom.co.uk)

I'm thoroughly enjoying the new Thea Gilmore album. (Sherlyn.Koo)

Harpo's Ghost is an uneven album, but still worthwhile. It seems Thea was trying to make her songs more strident musically, so there are a number of hard rock anthems like "We Built a Monster" and "Cheap Tricks." I prefer the mellower songs. And although Thea's ballads are usually my least favorite tracks, "Slow Journey II" is definitely the best song on this album. The hidden track "Play Until the Bottle's Gone" is also really good. Overall it's not as strong an album as Rules for Jokers or Avalanche, but given a chance, it's a welcome addition to her collection. (JoAnn Whetsell)


Liejacker

Release info:

2008—Fulfill—FCCD 109

Availability:

UK

Ecto priority:

Recommended for contemporary folk fans

Group members:

Thea Gilmore—vocals, guitar, harmonium, percussion, lead guitar, rhythm guitar, National, bass, chimney hood, percussion, cymbals, dobro, chorus vocals

Guest artists:

Nigel Stonier—piano, mellotron strings, ukulele, acoustic bass, bass, harmonica, dulcimer, mandolin, baritone guitar, drums, chorus vocals. acoustic guitar, electric guitar, melodica
Mike Cave—percussion, drums, symbals
Roy Martin—drums, kitchen utensils, percussion
Laura Reid—cello
Ian Thomson—upright bass
James Hallawell—5 organs, Hammond organ
John Kirkpartrick—accordion
Jo Wadeson—bass
Jordan Oldfield—, chorus vocals
Kelly Rogerson—, chorus vocals
Joan Baez—duet vocal (4)
Dave McCabe—duet vocal (1)
Erin McKeown—backing vocals (6)
Steve Wickham—fiddle (4)

Produced by:

Thea Gilmore, Nigel Stonier, and Mike Cave

Comments:

Absolutely lovely. I was mightily apprehensive after this, what with Harpo's Ghost being, to me, a disappointment, and following wary "well, it will grow on me" reviews on forums, not to mention a non-too thrilled review from someone whose judgement I respect.
     But, in the end, as far as I'm concerned, all's good.
     This is just a lovely, lovely album. Warm, introspective and much more welcoming than the hard gloss and over-production of Harpo's Ghost, this is an album to immerse yourself in and surrender to, a wonderfully seductive display of beauty and maturity. Certainly, I miss the spikiness and edge of some of her earlier material, such as Songs from the Gutter, but the material on this album more than makes up for it. David McCabe of the Zutons duets on the opener and Erin McKeown helps out on "Dance in New York", not to mention Joan Baez duetting with Thea on "The Lower Road" (and their voices, in particular, blend stunningly) which she herself will cover in her next album. Even the bonus track, a cover version of Dead or Alive's "You Spin Me Round" fits neatly into place and is not, unlike the bonus track at the end of Harpo's Ghost and so many "surprise tracks", handcuffed to its predecessor, thus doing them both a disservice.
     I once described Thea's voice as something like "limited, but works brilliantly within those limits". Over the last few years she has more than proved me wrong: hearing her sing, a cappella, the traditional "Parting Glass" at the end of her gigs was an epiphany, and the quality of her voice has grown enormously, developing a quality that can only be described as blues/folk. It's never sounded better, and on Liejacker it reveals itself as a heart-melting power to be reckoned with.
     I realise I'm being a bit hyperbolic about this, but I really wasn't expecting to love this album as I do. It's breathtakingly gorgeous, and one that I cannot stop listening to. (adamk@zoom.co.uk)

I have to say—I was really disappointed with this. Of all things it's predictable for the most part both musically and lyrically: something I never expected from Thea Gilmore. There are even a couple of tracks with a strong trendy Americana sound (where she sounds like she's having a lot of fun, but it sounds like everyone else's Americana does). However, exactly what annoys me about this album will probably endear it to a wider audience, something she's been hoping and working for for a long time, so I wish her the best. Adam is right about her vocals, though—they've never sounded better. (Neile)

This album is solid. From the first line—"I'm looking for an old soul"—it knows what it's about, and delivers: finely crafted, rustic folk-pop, all sung in Thea's rich voice. It's the perfect respite from the parade of '80s synth revival that doesn't seem to have an end in sight (not that some of it isn't good, but at some point, someone's got to say enough already). (lotterose @ gmail . com)


Recorded Delivery

Release info:

2009—Fulfill—068430002049

Availability:

Wide

Ecto priority:

Highly recommended

Group members:

Thea Gilmore—vocals, acoustic guitar, kazoo

Guest artists:

Nigel Stonier—acoustic guitar, piano, keyboards, harmonica, vocals
Fluff—fiddle, percussion
Jim Kirkpatrick—electric, acoustic, and slide guitars, vocals
Jo Wadeson—bass and vocals
Roy Martin—drums, percussion

Comments:

i've been listening to it pretty much more than anything else recently—truly a stunning album—about half the tracks are so good that they give me the chills. (gordoja@optonline.net)

I like it a LOT, especially the inclusion of various unreleased songs such as "Concrete" (autobiographical and new to me) "Me and Frank Sinatra" (one of her best tunes ever, in my opinion) and "If You Miss Me At the Back of the Bus", a civil rights singalong she did on her last tour. There's also the welcome addition of a spine-tingling "My Own Private Riot" which she gave a rare outing to a couple of years ago and here features a manic guitar solo (sorry, don't have the liner notes to hand to give credit where it's due). The album, although it takes live tracks from a couple of years' worth of tours and many venues, evolves as it goes along, starting with just Thea and her acoustic guitar and then adding more musicians until you have the full electric blast of "My Own Private Riot". My only niggle is that, once you get the full band, there is a tendency for some of the tracks to sound a bit too faithful. That said, it's good to hear "Everybody's Numb" divorced from the shiny production of Harpo's Ghost, and "Rags and Bones" has a wonderful vitality to it. I find myself looking forward to her promised "Christmas" album with none of the dread I usually reserve for such seasonal fare. Honorable mention for best of the year if only for "Concrete", the stunning "You and Frank Sinatra", and the blistering live version of "My Own Private Riot". (adamk@zoom.co.uk)

It is wonderful! I don't usually consider live albums for my "best of the year" list but this one is an exception. Her rendition of "My Own Private Riot" on that album is particularly a stunner and I love that new song "Concrete". Thea never ceases to totally amaze me... (onyx@vianet.ca)

As good as everybody says. (JoAnn Whetsell)

Listening to it now and it's as wonderful as everyone was saying! (burka@jeffrey.net)


Strange Communion

Release info:

2009

Availability:

Wide

Ecto priority:

Highly recommended

Comments:

An utterly, utterly lovely seasonal album with her own brand of sardonic wit and tunefulness undercutting any sentimentality.
     I've already raved enough about this: I thought nothing could knock Greg Lake off of my Christmas tree perch. (adamk@zoom.co.uk)

The Strange Communion album is nice. Certainly not a "typical" holiday album (a good thing in my opinion). (onyx@vianet.ca)

The new Thea Gilmore 'holiday' release, Strange Communion, has been heard and liked. You wouldn't think that Thea would release the typical cheesy holiday CD, and she hasn't; it's pure Thea. Good stuff. (Silme@ix.netcom.com)


Murphy's Heart

Release info:

2010

Availability:

Wide

Ecto priority:

Highly recommended

Comments:

Thea released her newest, Murphy's Heart earlier this week. Now, I'm a Thea fan but I like to think I still strive towards some sort of objectivity, for instance making known my disappointment at Harpo's Ghost, her 2006 release, and attempting to NOT become the sort of starry-eyed fan who says "It's her BEST ALBUM EVER" at every release.
     Murphy's Heart, however, really, really is...her BEST ALBUM EVER, and I'm not ashamed to say so. It's certainly the most immediately engaging of her albums—even Liejacker from a couple of years ago took a while to work its smoky charms—because there's just so much going on here. From the funky brass of the opener, "This Town", to the sweeping melancholy of "Automatic Blue" and "Due South", the pulse-racing fervor of "Not Alone" and the swooning, heart-breaking romanticism of "That's How the Love Gets In" and "Wondrous Thing", not to mention the leering stompalong of "Teach Me to Be Bad" and the weird, utterly un-Thea-like "Jazz Hands", it just bristles with inventiveness, and her voice just gets better and better. Crikey just reading what I've written and I keep thinking, "My god, I've become what I most feared: One of THOSE fans". But it really, really is an exceptional album, and I can't recommend it enough.
     I got the limited "Deluxe" box set, which comes with a series of postcards with art on one side and lyrics from the songs on the other. It was also supposed to have a bonus track, "Your Voice" (written for the elections over here and available on YouTube) but apparently there was a mistake at the pressing plant and it didn't happen. Thea's angry about that, but it's hard to care—I'd hate an added bonus track to spoil this kind of experience: When "Wondrous Thing" (which should be a "first dance" number for weddings everywhere) ends, it would be a shame to alter the mood you're left with.
     So, yeah, take this with a grain of salt and try to ignore the deranged happiness that suffuses every word I've written. But buy this album. If it doesn't put her on the map, then the earth doesn't deserve its place in the heavens.
     The thought occurred to me, while listening to it, that this is "The One", the one I'd recommend to anyone without hesitation were they to ask me, "Which one should I listen to first?", and most likely the one I'd choose from her work to take with me to a desert island (although I'd try and smuggle a couple of others in my underpants).
     I've already raved about this at length but, I have to say, I still can't get enough of this album. (adamk@zoom.co.uk)

One of the best albums of the year. (gordoja@optonline.net, onyx@vianet.ca)


Teach Me to Be Bad EP

Release info:

2010

Availability:

Wide

Ecto priority:

Highly recommended

Comments:

I love this EP. A mix of energy, intensity, and fun, with one really beautiful, quieter song ("Several Angels"). I actually like this EP better than the Murphy's Heart album (on which the title track also appears). (JoAnn Whetsell)

John Wesley Harding

Release info:

2011

Availability:

Wide

Ecto priority:

Highly recommended

Comments:

I finally got the chance to really listen to it yesterday whilst driving to Wales. Nice covers. (Silme@ix.netcom.com)

I still can't fathom the point of this whole project. I'm no Dylan fan, so this doesn't make a case for the original for me, and her versions just don't take enough chances to make it stand out on its own. Pleasant enough but hmmm. Although Thea's version is perfectly nice, it doesn't change my mind or make me go "Wow, what an album" and seek out the original. It's just...very nice, very pleasant listening, if a little pointless to me. Basically, it is the least essential Thea Gilmore album I ever hope to own. (adamk@zoom.co.uk)


Don't Stop Singing

Release info:

2011—Mighty Village—6 02527 78351 2

Availability:

Wide

Ecto priority:

Highly recommended

Group members:

Thea Gilmore—lead and backing vocals

Guest artists:

Nigel Stonier—guitars, piano, harmonium, bass, ukulele, melodica, harmonica, backing vocals (2)
Paul Beavis—drums, percussion
Benji Kirkpatrick—guitars, bouzouki, mandolin, banjo
Liz Hanks—cello
John Kirkpatrick—accordion and concertina
Maclaine Colston—hammered dulcimer (1)
Fluf—fiddle (5)
Donald Grant—first violin, fiddle (7)
Magnus Johnson—violin
Rachel Jones—viola
Tracey Browne—backing vocals (1, 4, 5)
Steve Butler—backing vocals (1, 4, 5, 7)
Kellie While—backing vocals (2, 10)
Ewan Davies—percussion, xylophone (4)
Dan Logan—percussion

Produced by:

Nigel Stonier

Comments:

Thea was approached by the estate of Sandy Denny to put music to a sheaf of lyrics that they'd found. The result suffers a bit from a sameyness of tone and tempo, but there are loads of achingly beautiful moments, and I do feel that she manages to put more heart and soul into one track, "Long Time Gone", than Laura Marling does her entire album. (adamk@zoom.co.uk)

One of the best albums of the year. (onyx@vianet.ca)

I put off buying this album for a long time mostly because I'm not familiar with Sandy Denny and I didn't care for Thea's John Wesley Harding album, but I'm so glad I eventually got it. It's a beautiful album. Very much Thea, and really showcasing her softer side. (JoAnn Whetsell)


Regardless

Release info:

2013—Fulfill—FCCD146

Availability:

Wide

Ecto priority:

Highly recommended

Group members:

Thea Gilmore

Guest artists:

Nigel Stonier—guitars, keyboards, bass ukulele, cuatro, bass harmonica, backing vocals
Paul Beavis—drums, percussion
Seadna McPhail—percussion, programming
Pete Whitfield—violin (1, 2, 8, 9)
Sarah Brandwood Spencer, Alex Stemp—violin (1, 2, 8, 9)
Susannah Simmons—violin (5, 9)
Simon Turner, Dale Culliford—cello (1, 2, 8, 9)
Liz Hanks—cello (5, 6)
Alan Lowles—upright bass (3, 5); accordion (4)
Tracey Browne—vocals (2, 6); percussion (3)
Steve Butler—vocals (3, 8, 11)
Robbie McIntosh—guitars (1, 8)
Dan Logan—percussion (3, 5)
Nikolai Torp Larsen—additional keyboards (2)
James Hallawell—Hammond (10)
Che Beresford—drums (11)
Adam Coel—programming (2)

Produced by:

Nigel Stonier

Comments:

May I chime in with those who have loved this new release. I was a bit nervous at first, particularly with what seemed to be 'extra' production on the single. But Thea's right. She needs to eat, pay the bills etc. And now with her 14th album, she's cracked the British Top 40! Finally. (Silme@ix.netcom.com)

Her 2 previous covers albums were a bit underwhelming for me. Very glad she is back to recording original material. The strings and orchestral touches add a lushness and sense of musical depth that I've not really noticed in her previous work. Of course the melodies are brilliant and the lyrics very interesting (I would expect nothing less from Thea). It also seems a bit more up-tempo than her last few albums. Recalling my personal favorite Thea Gilmore album, Avalanche. Although there are a few gorgeous ballads such as "Punctuation" as well.
     Her sound is a little more polished on this one but it's still unmistakably Thea and I find it to be a stronger album than Murphy's Heart which had some great songs but a few others that seemed commercial in a bland way. On "Regardless" I find even the songs which may be angling for radio play are interesting to me. (onyx@vianet.ca)

As good as everyone has been saying. Yes, it's glossier than if you go back and listen to her early albums, but I don't find that detracts at all from some really strong songs. (JoAnn Whetsell)

I was a bit apprehensive about this one, what with the last two side projects (the rather pointless Dylan album and the rather better Sandy Denny release) plus the somewhat glossy-looking album cover, the upbeat and string-laden single and the knowledge that two of the other tracks on the album were going to be revamps of, IMHO, a couple of her weaker fan-only releases. Add to that the fact that I've actually spent the last year fixated on classical music and completely unable to connect with any new music, or even a lot of my old music.
     To my surprise and delight, this is a really great album—up there with her best, I think. I know, I know, fans always say that kind of thing, but I'm really impressed by the subtle stylistic changes she's made: Regardless, with its strings, is lusher, denser, more layered than anything she's done before, and contains some of the most heart-stoppingly beautiful songs she's ever recorded. As far as I can tell, the theme—if indeed there is one—is motherhood, which she tackles with her usual sharpness, forthrightness and lyrical dexterity, forgoing any sentimentality or gushiness that you might expect with this sort of thing.
     Yes, I do think it's the most consciously radio-friendly album she's done, but having listened to it a few times, now, it actually feels as if it's also the most confessional, most personal album she's done so far—quite something for an artist who's pretty raw and open as a matter of course. This is among the many fascinating things about this one, is that she's pulled a real blinder. I mean, you have the deeply personal and melancholy "I Will Not Disappoint" right next to the uplifting pop of "Looking for Love" and the glorious rocking of "Start As We Mean to Go On", all the while with the lush coating of strings. It's downright odd and yet it all absolutely works. The last time she was this "produced" was Harpo's Ghost, and that didn't work at all for her music, but this time she's found a wonderfully unsettling fit.
     There are a couple of outright odd songs—"Spit and Shine" seems, to me, to be poking fun at the kind of middle-class mother she dreads becoming (with a really curious African beat), while "Punctuation", which details a conversation between God, Adam and someone called Lucy, has me stumped. But these are still really enjoyable, and the rest of the album ranges from joyous rockers to moments of such sublime, swooning beauty that even on first listening on the way to work, I was tempted to collar random fellow commuters and say, "Do you know what I'm listening to? Have you any idea how MAGNIFICENT life can be with this kind of music in it?" I have since gone on to listen to it three times a day for seven days straight, and can't wait to listen to it again.
     Yes, it's THAT kind of great. Buy it and feel love, heartbreak and joy all at once. I'm glad I did. It's a paradox for me, which I guess makes it all the more fascinating. It's not what I expected, and she's somehow managed to move forward in a subtle, seductive way that I think is a stroke of genius. Not sure where I'd place it in comparison to Murphy's Heart, which I've always felt is her best (surprised that people haven't taken to that) but I suspect it will stay with me for a long, long time.
     I can only repeat that this album took me quite by surprise and reinvigorated my love for Thea and her music and music in general. (adamk@zoom.co.uk)

Loving Thea too. Strong from beginning to end. (k_hester_k@yahoo.co.nz)

Another new artist discovery for me. These songs (even the uptempo ones.) are of a very smooth quality, by which I mean they're fun but not ordinary, pop-y but not repetitive. One of the best albums of the year. (raschee@gmail.com)

One of the best albums of the year. (christina_skov@hotmail.com)


Further info:

COMPILATIONS

Tracks only available on compilations include:

  • "Girl From the North Country" on The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan: A Folk Tribute (2011)
COLLABORATIONS

Collaborations include:

  • "Follow," "I Could Be Happy With You," and "Lizard Skin" with Dayve Dean on his album Octagon (2008)
  • "Inner City Blues (Make Me Wanna Holler)," "Warm and Tender Love," and "When Something Is Wrong With My Baby" with The Reel & Soul Association on their album 50 U.S. Cents (2010)
  • "Lean on Me" with John Kirkpatrick and The Reel & Soul Association on 50 U.S. Cents (2010)

COVERS OF HER WORK

Joan Baez covered "The Lower Road" on her album Day After Tomorrow (2008)


Thanks to JoAnn Whetsell for work on this entry.

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