Come winter, many of us lament the chill that crawls over our cherished landscape. To poets, however, this is yet another rich layer, a deeper shade of blue in Vermont’s spectrum. Meg Devlin Irish understands. Sure, the seasoned songstress prefers milder months. But her breezy style carries warmth year round. Sprinkled with folksy cheer, lovelorn melancholy and nostalgia, her latest album, Deeper Shade of Blue, feels a bit like Christmas on the lake.
With her fourth release, the native chanteuse weaves memoirs of hope and heartbreak. The collection has a familiar, timeless quality, from the charming opener, “My Baby Loves Me” — backed by Jim Pitman’s weeping dobro — and throughout the album’s 10 tracks. In fact, many of the originals sound plucked from a Patsy Cline playlist. But they’re all Irish.
With Martin acoustic in hand, she hits her stride on understated compositions such as the striking “Deep Bay.” Here, the freckled muse quietly plucks her six-string through a ballad that’s sure to keep listeners rapt. Irish’s evocative imagery and motherly storytelling soothe like a cool cloth to the forehead.
Awash in romance and spirituality, Blue’s upbeat, dulcet tones would please ears in cafés and churches alike. Few can resist the folksy classic “Red River Valley/You Are My Sunshine,” Depression-era chestnuts reincarnated by banjoist Steve Lottspeich. Anyone alive can appreciate the old line, “Please don’t take my sunshine away,” whether literal or metaphorical.
With shades of Neko Case — minus the frosty wit — Irish shows soulful range on “Never Tasted Love Like This.” The paean features smoky electric guitar by longtime collaborator Colin McCaffrey, who brings fiddle, mandolin and sharp production to Irish’s work.
Only the mid-tempo cover “I Can’t Help Falling in Love With You” misses the mark. Roy Cutler’s shuffling snare is distracting, and Irish’s sweet croon crosses into corniness.
Conversely, the title cut is one of Blue’s strongest. Gordon Stone lays his veteran pedal steel alongside Irish’s best Loretta Lynn impression, as she mourns a lover’s wandering baby-blue eyes. It’s a sleepy, vulnerable slow dance in the wait.
Closing with the ukulele-driven “Take Me A-Sailing Home,” Irish clearly would rather paint pastels than deep shades. She pens songs that brush the surface, like feet dangling off a dock. Even in December, it’s easy to imagine mainsails flapping overhead, the Adirondack sunset just beyond. Age has refined this redheaded beauty. And while Blue might not hasten spring, its earthy portraits are sure to warm hearts over the holidays.