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Greg - Toy (Coral Bay)

Unlike the unholy deluge of traditional Irish Musicians currently dealing in formulaic ballads and laments, Greg knows and exploits the importance of a fresh and original sound. So, although 'Toy' falls into the general category of trad, suffice it to say that this is the antithesis of Foster & Allen and their risible bunch of cronies. In fact, the only similarity from Irish shores that I'd dare mention is with Van Morrison ... and even Van the Man's much-admired epics pale by comparison to this exhibition of breathtaking vocal and musical agility.

Okay, that may be an exaggeration. But to name-drop the likes of Portishead and P.J. Harvey at her quietest in the same sentence as Greg is by no means a miscalculation or overstatement. Just imagine that those two voices were male and you can almost hear Greg's music in your head. Like everything, 'though, this has its faults, and like every album there are one or two iffy moments that fill in the gaps. Rarely, however, does an album touch the heart the way 'Toy' does.

Backing vocals from Jack Lukeman and ZoŽ Holohan are more than ideal complements to Greg's deep, soothing and calm voice, a voice that, like all the acclaimed singers of the last 50 years, does so much more than just relay the message in words. His is a voice that could surf and soar above the ideal melody and somehow make it sound better. Layered onto 'Toy's soft harmonies, that voice takes each track to a higher plateau.

Like those rare moments in musical history when a simple guitar and piano arrangement becomes a mini-epiphany, Greg's 'Toy' is a necessity for ardent lovers of music. This is for the blues fan; the trad fan; the folk fan and, indeed, for everyone alive who appreciates the wealth of pleasures that can be derived from a frank and simple song.

by Michael Gleeson

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