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"I think you'll be impressed." That's what the editor said when he told me he was sending this album for review. He was wrong. Impressed doesn't come anywhere near it. Gobsmacked and blown away are nearer the mark, because this collection from piano accordionist and singer Harriet Bartlett is one of the most stunning debut albums I've heard in a long, long time.
Listening to Eyes Wide Open you have to keep reminding yourself that Harriet is only sixteen years old, because there's a maturity to her playing that just doesn't compute with that fact.
There are several reasons why this album is so good. It's a beautifully produced, paced and varied set which shows off her talents to great effect, with tunes such as Karen Tweed's 'Miss Hanoria McNamara of Ballybunion' to Simon Jeffes' 'Tune for a Found Harmonium', and songs that range from Richard Thompson's 'Crazy Man Michael' to Alastair McDonald's moving 'Culloden's Harvest'.
She's also accompanied be three very fine musicians - Phil Cunningham (piano, cittern and whistles), Mark Maguire (bodhran) and Ed Boyd (guitar), who add exactly the right amount of colour to proceedings without ever overwhelming Harriet's contribution.
If that wasn't enough, Harriet also reveals herself to be a dab hand when it comes to writing her own material as is evidenced by the likes of the opening 'Philly Boy' and 'Charlie's jig', which more than hold their own against the other material.
As a singer, there's a certain fragility inherent in Harriet's still developing voice which is used to good effect, particularly on the aforementioned 'Culloden's Harvest', but it's her accordion playing that really makes you sit up and take notice. Out of ten, a resounding ten!
-- Dave Haslam