Album Review / Joy & Andrew Dunlop: Dithis

The vastly gifted Scottish siblings have released their first album together. They have collaborated more before on Joy’s albums but this is the first full joint release. Joy naturally takes care of all vocals and Andrew, a classical pianist, brings in a few other instruments to color his beautiful piano performance.

I have to admit the first time I played Dithis, it tended to melt into the background; the piano & vocals combination got trumped by whatever supposedly important I was doing at the time. But there was something there, and a couple of days later I returned to it, this time in a proper listening session. And then it got me.

Dithis is essentially an album of natural pleasure. Yes, the skill with which these songs area arranged is considerable – for example, the small, totally charming accordion melodies and parts that ornament I Wonder What’s Keeping My True Love Tonight really lift the song. All the tunes are given small-scale, lucid modern arrangements so this is not a trad album but contemporary folk in sound and atmosphere.

But the two communicate so effortlessly one can feel it and hear it throughout the album on all songs. Even if it’s just Andrew playing and Joy singing, there’s a tangible vitality in the music; it’s… I dunno, strong, without being muscular, even in the quitetest songs. Can’t put it any clearer than that.

Andrew’s classical skills are present not in as any flashy playing but in the full understanding and expression he brings to even the simplest tune. This is what true musicianship is: reading the essence of a piece and working to bring it to the listener. So simple in principle and so very challenging to achieve.

Joy’s interpretations are, well, a joy. I think she is more versatile here than she’s been before, almost inhabiting different personas, from the Gaelic trad singer to the nearly mystical voice in Solas m’ àigh and the forceful storyteller in The Testimony of Patience Kershaw.

An album of much musical worth, it really is, and full of so much human warmth and presence.

Purchase your own copy here:

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