On her third recording, Rock Solid Romancin', Vermont singer-songwriter Meg Devlin Irish collaborates with a number of other songwriters, making particularly fine use of Montpelier multi-instrumentalist Colin McCaffrey's Nashville-style songwriting skills and tunesmanship. The result is far more pop-oriented and countrified than was Irish's 2002 release Grounded.
When it comes right down to it, McCaffrey is all over this album. Not only does he shine on guitar, bass, harp, mandolin, fiddle, dobro and keyboards, but he's listed as co-writer on four of the 10 songs. Still, the bulk of the material on Rock Solid Romancin' comes straight from the heart of Meg Irish.
Although a capable guitarist herself, on the new disc Irish puts most of her energy into singing. Most tracks feature McCaffrey and drummer Roy Cutler on backup vocals, with vocal and flute contributions by guest musician Patti Casey. Central Vermont dobro genius Jim Pitman also adds some flavor. Irish's vocals are an acquired taste: Although she sounds sincere, she often warbles and sometimes even yodels her way through the tunes. Lyrically, the disc features mostly pretty poetry about feelings and love. This could be way too schmaltzy if you're not in the mood, but might hit the spot if you're in the market for someone else's heartfelt longings.
Since 2000, Irish has sought inspiration from members of the Nashville Songwriters Association and, from the sound of this record, she has completely fallen for that country-pop vibe. In addition to the pretty twang, there are also a few soft-rock numbers on Rock Solid. "Is It You?" sounds like a potential B-side for The Eagles' "Take It Easy," while the title track is another exercise in mellow gold.
Recorded and mixed in sparkling digital at Peter Engisch's Williston studio, Rock Solid Romancin' sounds as if it might have been created in some walkup studio in Nashville's Music Square. It's obvious from the care that went into production that Irish prizes authenticity.
Currently she's on a musical tour of Vermont senior centers, where you can bet that these sweet songs will bring plenty of pleasure to her audiences.