Irish chanteuse constructs a downbeat return…

Imelda May’s remarkable career is testament to being in the right place at the right time. Shooting to fame relatively late in life, a standout a Later… performance in 2008 demonstrated the richness of her natural aptitude. Matching country to blues and soul, she’s released a string of chart-smashing albums, carving out a unique niche in the process.

’11 Past The Hour’ – her first since ‘Live Love Flesh Blood’ in 2017 – leans on those famed vocal chops, constructing a series of dimly lit twilight adventures, dropping the tempo on an enriching if downbeat return. Countrified ballads that utilise a very classic palette, early highlights such as the title track and ‘Breathe’ demonstrate a willingness to chase after a very particular tone and aesthetic.

Miles Kane shakes it up on ‘What We Did In The Dark’ while ‘Diamonds’ emanates from the stereo in wisps of sound. At times, however, it can get a little repetitive, with the husky, retro-pop minimalism hemmed in by the boundaries she’s set down.

‘Just One Kiss’ borrows a Rolling Stone – the ever-genial Ronnie Wood and Oasis songwriter Noel Gallagher, but it’s one of the album’s less prominent moments. Stellar cast, for sure, but there’s a feeling that Amelda operates best when firmly in the driving seat.

Closing with ‘Never Look Back’, it’s an oddly mixed return, at once comfortable in its languid, largely down tempo surroundings, yet also lacking a certain spark. Her first studio affair in four years, ’11 Past The Hour’ finds Imelda May consolidating her distinctive position within pop’s pantheon.

7/10

Words: Robin Murray

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