I’ve been wandering long…
Already a distinguished performer at music festivals across Ireland, Anna-Mieke Bishop is a multi-instrumentalist and singer songwriter originally from Co. Wicklow. A nomad at heart, years of travelling and living in different corners of the world (“from the west of Ireland to Spain to Bangladesh to New Zealand”) have shaped her unique, powerful and distinct style. Self-released on Friday 26 April 2019 last as a digital download, CD and LP, Idle Mind is the singer’s first full-length début.
Idle Mind is a superb album navigating effortlessly between contemporary shades of folk music (“Warped Window”, “Mountain Song”), spirited folk-rock (“Idle Mind”, “If”) and Americana blues-rock (“Arbour”). There are also adventurous forays into more modern classical and jazz-tinged territories on songs like Creature (visually enhanced by a contemporary dance choreography) or the stunning “Parallel”.
Accompanying herself on bouzouki and acoustic/electric guitar on most songs, Anna Mieke is also a pianist and a cellist, thus immediately broadening her sonic palette. Brían Mac Gloinn (one half of Irish folk duo Ye Vagabonds) is present on almost every songs as a backing vocalist or playing the guitar, fiddle or harmonium. Dublin-based jazz percussionist Matthew Jacobson or Wayne Dunlea (drums), Nick Rayner (synth), Conor Cunningham (flute & clarinet) and Sonny Sampson (bass) complete the line-up. There are hardly any solo or improvised sections as instruments are used in a solely harmonic capacity at all times to support Anna Mieke’s impeccable vocals.
Among the few videos that were available on Anna Mieke’s YouTube channel prior to the release of her début album is a spine-chilling interpretation of the traditional song My Lagan Love based on Margaret Barry’s version. The Irish folk singing tradition, and perhaps more precisely the unaccompanied Irish sean-nós singing style appear to shape Anna Mieke’s phasing and intonation on many songs.
None of the original songs on the album bear a “traditional” stamp though, but the singer dips into other styles to carve her own path. Her usage of the Greek bouzouki, borrowed from the Greek folk and Rebetiko traditions and adopted by Irish accompanying musicians since the mid-1960s also provides a fantastic grounding to her songs. In a recent interview, the singer quotes Nick Drake’s album “Pink Moon” as a major influence on her music too.
Anna Mieke’s “Mountain Song” filmed by Myles O’Reilly
The 10 songs on Idle Mind seem to have emerged organically over several years as the distillation of life experiences gathered at home and abroad. Underpinned by strong vocals, superb arrangements and lyrics dealing with the elements, wilderness and wide open spaces, the free-flowing compositions have slowly matured into a remarkable début.