Aoife Doyle is a Dublin based singer on an upward swing in her career. Her 2013 album This Time the Dream’s on Me is an excellent showcase of her talents both as a singer and a bandleader. Nestled somewhere between jazz and folk, Doyle has received critical acclaim both for her recorded output and her highly polished live gigs. Her debut album consists of ten covers of well-known folk, jazz and country songs which have been given the Doyle treatment. Doyle’s choice of songs to cover is interesting. An eclectic mix, including songs made famous by Alison Krauss and Patsy Cline (‘Oh, Atlanta’, and ‘She’s Got You’), two Bob Dylan songs and a Cole Porter standard, Doyle clearly has quite a diverse taste in music. Diverse too, is the talents of her backing band. While the band has had several different incarnations since 2010, its current form appears to be a winning combination. With Dominic Mullan on drums, Andrew Csibi on double bass and Johnny Taylor on piano, it seems like a typical jazz ensemble. However, coupled with Doyle’s stark, clear and robust vocal quality, makes this album an instant favourite.
After earning a diploma from the London Guildhall School of Music and a BA in Jazz Performance from Newpark, Doyle has been performing around Ireland to ever-increasing critical acclaim. Like Doyle, all members of the band are particularly accomplished in terms of their musical qualifications. Pianist Johnny Taylor hails from London originally and has studied at Trinity College and Berklee College of Music in Boston (the latter has Quincy Jones as a former alumnus). Andrew Csibi is a regular performer in the National Concert Hall and is a dedicated teacher. Drummer Dominic Mullan is also a graduate from the Guildhall School of Music and has performed all over Europe. With highly educated and qualified performers such as these, it is not surprising that together they produce an exceedingly polished sound which marries well with Doyle’s expressive voice.
The album has a strong start with Mick Ralphs’ ‘Oh Atlanta’. As previously mentioned, this song is synonymous with Alison Krauss and indeed, Doyle seems to be channelling her spirit. The clear, melismatic melody with a decidedly folksy twang demonstrates Doyle’s vocal ability, while the sparse accompaniment allows space for each musician to shine. A lengthy scat solo at the climax of the song however, proves to be the low point. While impressive in technical terms, it perhaps went on a little too long.
Other highlights include ‘She’s Got You’. A Hank Cochran song popularised by Patsy Cline is another example of Doyle’s particular talent: turning country and folk songs into jazz standards. This is especially noteworthy during Bob Dylan’s ‘I’ll Be Your Baby Tonight’. Here, the tempo is kicked up a notch and steadily builds to a rollicking height before sliding to a simmering close. This is also the track in which Johnny Taylor is given free rein to spectacular effect.
Overall, This Time the Dream’s on Me is a very confident and assured debut album from Aoife Doyle. While it would have been nice to hear more original work amidst all the covers, Doyle’s masterful control of her voice, and her daring and effortless improvisations of well-known melodies makes this album an incredibly memorable start to what looks to be a very promising career.