Thea Gilmore is nothing if not prolific – Regardless is her 14th album in as many years, but look a little more deeply at her recent output and you’ll see that her last two offerings have been a re-working of Dylan’s 1967 John Wesley Harding album, and Don’t Stop Singing – a project breathing new life into the unfinished lyrics of Sandy Denny. So the reality is that Regardless is Gilmore’s first completely new set of self-penned material since Murphy’s Heart in 2010.
And while inescapably Thea Gilmore – bearing all her stock in trade hallmarks – Regardless adds a new twist to her canon of work – the extensive use of strings. And while I wouldn’t confess to necessarily being a string fan, they add an entirely new, and welcome direction to her sound.
The best part of a year in the making – no doubt, in part at least, a result of the restraints of having a second child – Regardless feels like a more considered and measured piece of work, as opposed to Gilmore’s usual approach of getting her songs down and out in double quick time.
Recorded in a total of five different studios and hooking up with collaborators Seadna Mac Phail (Elbow), Danish producers The Suppliers (Ron Sexsmith, Martha Wainwright) and string arranger Pete Wingfield (Plan B), it’s perhaps her most mature and complete long player since Avalanche (2003). Bigger and glossier, yes, but Gilmore’s razor sharp lyrics and dark humour thankfully haven’t been blunted by motherhood.
It’s the lead single ‘Love Came Looking For Me’ and the equally cinematic ‘This Is How You Find The Way’ that immediately strike a chord, in a way that days of yore would undoubtedly hastened TOTP appearances and wider acclaim. But in this digital age it’s becoming increasingly difficult to find a major audience.
Be that as it may, Regardless is an album that rewards repeated plays – melodies that bury beneath the skin, Gilmore’s wonderful vocals, and punchy staccato numbers like ‘Something To Sing About’ and ‘Spit And Shine’, that add elements of light and shade. ****
Review by Pete Whalley
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