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"Beneath the Calm"  (2002)     GMCD 003
Reviewer: Ian Clarke
RATING:   * * * *

With the release of her third album, Fil Campbell steps out of the shadows as a gifted songwriter to add to her reputation as a discerning cover artist. The original compositions sit very comfortably with songs by more established writers like the great opener, Mick Hanly's "Somebody Up There". If Fil's style is easy listening it is not insipid but slips down nicely like a smooth fine amontillado and warms the heart. Sometimes it steps into Mary Black territory - the comparison is easy because Fil uses guitarist Bill Shanley throughout and very tastefully too. Fil's voice isn't as strong as Black's but has a more tender vulnerability that delivers her lyrics with affecting sincerity. She is complemented by a superb rhythm section that is sympathetic and restrained - feeling its way round the music whenever necessary rather than dominating - thanks to the double bass of James Blennerhassett and subtle hand percussion of Tom McFarland. The CD is well produced and has a good cover design and printed lyrics.

Fil has written six of the ten tracks, and co-written another with Eugene Brosnan. Good to hear old familiar songs like "Free My Soul" and "Hold My Heart" from Fil's stage shows - perhaps her most personal statements - sung here with passion and commitment, and with great choruses.

Fil's not afraid to let a song breathe - "I Still Think of You", a poignant tribute to her father, "Lover's Eyes" with its moody cello, and "Touch of Your Hand" are starkly effective.

"Even Then" is a catchy minor key song with a swinging bossa nova beat and Celine Carroll's "On the Water" is also a great pop melody.

Perhaps my favourite song on the CD, though it's hard to pick, is "Wilderness Years" once again penned by Dubliner Celine Carroll. It is a beautifully crafted ballad about rejection and reconciliation, sympathetically arranged although I would have liked to hear Anne Murnaghan's cello carrying the lovely melody.

Fil Campbell has come of age with this recording and it will bring repeated pleasure to listeners. It deserves to do very well.