Eleanor McEvoy – ‘Did I Hurt You?’ An SACD review by Stuart M. Robinson

June 26, in Titles

On the 17th June, we published news of the world’s first SACD single, a double-A side release from Eleanor McEvoy. It’s therefore only appropriate that we also bring you the first SACD single review…

Did I Hurt You?’, available from the first week of June onwards, hails from Market Square Records, an English label best known for their work with artists as diverse as Rod Clements, Steve Ashley, The Famous Jug Band and the wildly named Kevin Ayers and the Wizards of Twiddly. ‘Did I Hurt You’ and its partner track ‘Isn’t it a Little Late’ are performed by Eleanor McEnvoy, a hugely popular singer/songwriter both in her Irish homeland and throughout the world.

McEvoy, who is currently playing nine concerts around the UK reached star status after her own composition ‘Only a Woman’s Heart’ was featured on the anthology album of the same name, a disc that has since become the best-selling Irish album in history and remains in that country’s album charts to this day.

Both the tracks on this SACD single are taken from McEvoy’s fourth album, ‘Yola’, which was also released on the Market Square label on the 18th June (look out for a High Fidelity Review feature in the near future). The album’s title originates from a now extinct Anglicised Irish dialect only found in isolated southeast Wexford (Ireland), where much of the album was written and arranged. It sees a return to the studio for McEvoy whose minimalist arrangements centre around voice with piano accompaniment, capably played by Brian Connor – who co-produced the disc with Eleanor – and the percussion of Liam Bradley. ‘Yola’ is described by Market Square as “…an intimate exploration of mood, space and texture”.

This SACD single is a hybrid, so there’s two-channel DSD on one layer and Red-book 44.1kHz PCM on the other, which makes sense as it avoids a dual-inventory release. The disc has been competitively priced at Ј4.50 by Market Square (Ј3.99 from their on-line store) but is a little disappointing in terms of running time, since both tracks combined only last for just a few seconds over six minutes. More than enough if this were a release from the Smurfs, but McEvoy is in another league, which left me wanting to hear the remainder of the album…

The aforementioned ‘Did I Hurt You’ is the first track and it’s a real showcase of McEvoy’s writing talents, backed by non-intrusive yet ever-present moody piano from Connor. Eleanor’s voice has an intimate quality and her diction is both clear and precise. The fidelity of the track is also excellent, with one major caveat; vocals have an immediate presence and the piano has been reproduced faithfully, but whoever was responsible for recording the rhythm acoustic guitar should hang his or her head in shame, it’s paper thin to the point of being unrecognisable; I had a hard time telling it apart from the brushed snare that forms part of the track’s percussive accompaniment, even though I play both instruments…

Isn’t it a Little Late’ is much better, a class above in fact. The snappy drum riff begins under a deliberate low-fidelity veil then bursts to the fore with such verve as to be quite startling. The track features drums with solo (at times overdubbed) vocals and works wonderfully; it reminds me a little of Suzanne Vega’s style of ‘99.9 F°’, with an equal amount of ballsy rhythm/vocal integration, if such a thing is possible. Trouble is, the piece is over all too quickly!

If nothing else and despite its obvious curiosity value, this double-A side single offers a great opportunity to sample the magic of Eleanor McEvoy and the strengths of SACD, leaving aside the first track’s highly dubious guitar part. This is certainly one for the collection, so stay tuned for our full ‘Yola’ album review…

Both discs can be ordered from the Market Square web site, check out: http://www.marketsquarerecords.co.uk/

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