Irish chanteuse Cathy Davey’s 2004 debut Something Ilk was a collections of skewed pop songs that gained Davey a bit of a following and was a minor success in her native Ireland. But it didn’t quite live up to the promise of the quirky gem of a single, Clean and Neat. Having garnered a few awards following its October release across the Irish Sea, might Tales Of Silversleeve get Davey noticed outside the Emerald Isle.
Davey’s sophomore effort gets off to a promising start with Sing For Your Supper a soaring beautiful love song. With a simple rhythmic guitar line and one long drum beat, the song is at first all about Davey’s voice, which manages to be both world weary and naive, but it gradually builds to a clamour of devotion and longing played out by an orchestra of pianos, guitars, percussion and a multilayered vocal chorus. The lyrics might be lost at first to the simple pleasure of the swooping vocals, but on subsequent listens the poetry comes to the fore with lines like “there’s a woman in my brain and she dabbles in my chemistry; I woke her up when I called your name, but I’ll never wake her up again”. As opening tracks go, this is an absolute corker.
The upbeat pop shuffle of Reuben doesn’t quite match the splendour of Sing For Your Supper, but it’s no slouch. A piano led pop stomp sprinkled with handclaps and girl-group backing vocals. The sweet charm of Davey’s voice, which has more than a touch of the The Cardigans‘ Nina Persson about it, gives the track a definitely Scandinavian pop feel.
Moving is a sprawling dance track, the likes of which Kylie hasn’t delivered in far too long and Overblown Love Song a tongue-in-cheek emotional waltz, tugging on your heartstrings while winking knowingly over your shoulder. Davey can willingly turn the mood of her songs on a dime. If anything, the artifice is at times their downfall. For someone with the voice of an ingenue, she ends up sounding disingenuous.
But such moments are rare and the album is largely a leftfield pop gem. On Sneaker Pimp, Liam Howe provides excellent production, never slipping into the excesses that bugged his former outfit, allowing the songs room to breathe and take life. It would be nice to think that Davey could be a pop contender; but perhaps to her credit, she lacks the single-minded determination of acts such as Goldfrapp who sacrificed some variety to please a core audience. There are more than enough hit singles on this album to gain Davey a much bigger following than she currently has, and the rest is classy enough to satisfy more than just a pop audience.