guitarist, singer and music producer
The Salty Diamond, Rosie Carson and Kevin Dempsey

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Teenage prodigy Rosie Carson, student of Cincinnati’s Riley School of Irish Music and multiple Fleadh competition winner, has studied singing and fiddle playing with contemporary masters of Irish music and forged connections and guested with legends of the English folk scene from Fairport Convention, Steeleye Span, Feast of Fiddles etc.

This album presents her voice and fiddle work in a duo with the distinctive brilliance of Kevin Dempsey’s acoustic guitar accompaniment and voice. There are eleven very pleasing, at times charming, arrangements of familiar traditional tunes, a Richard Thompson tune and Kevin’s own The Music Bringer.

Rosie’s voice is mature and appealing and contributes to some delightful combined harmonies. Her fiddle playing is light but firm with that slightly sketchy and edgy quality so essential to the English folk ‘feel’. Kevin’s chordings are, as ever, fascinating and his playing is bright and accurate, chunky and funky, somehow combining the jagged and the neat, with his own compelling rhythmic and percussive character.

The final track features a loaned banjo (‘thanks and kudos’ to the Todhunters) which gives a richly American feel to the offering of Come and Go. Kevin’s voice, so memorable from Whippersnapper and his solo and recent duo recordings, is always so traditionally English to my ears and conveys a really evocative rustic and bucolic quality on tunes such as Green grows the laurel.

The songs and instrumentals are very accurately recorded with a strong synergy between the two artists in relation both to melody and rhythm. Highly recommended.

Kevin Ward

The Salty Diamond: Kevin Dempsey and Rosie Carson. Own Label. Review by David Kidman

This CD has turned out to be an unheralded gem. It’s an inspirational – and yet seemingly unlikely – teaming of a young and extremely talented Cincinnati-born singer and fiddle player (Rosie Carson, who’s still only 18 years of age but thus far the winner of numerous national competitions for both fiddle and voice, as well as having already shared a stage with many of the legends of folk) with master guitarist, singer, songwriter, producer and British folk icon Kevin Dempsey (veteran of innumerable lineups including Whippersnapper and Uiscedwr and memorable collaborations with the likes of Swarb, Peter Knight, Joe Broughton and Mary Black).

These credentials alone would speak for themselves, but together Rosie and Kevin make a truly amazing and effective (and perhaps unexpectedly symbiotic) musical team. Each musician, although skilled and versatile in her/his own right, also complementarily combines the specific key qualities of lyricism and dexterity in their playing, entirely at the service of the music. There’s an unerring sense of purpose in their thoughtfully presented renditions of traditional material, in particular their knowingly refreshingly different takes on the songs, which often use less usual variants of the melodies than those we’re accustomed to hearing (The Bay Of Biscay, Silver Dagger and Green Grows The Laurel are all cases in point). Rosie has studied singing with Danú’s Muireann Nic Amhlaoibh, and this shows in her careful use of ornamentation and ably flowing phrasing, and even if there’s occasionally still a slight suspicion of “learnt” response in her delivery this is still better than hearing unwarranted mannerisms and she’s got plenty of time ahead of her in which to develop her personal craft. And with her animated fiddle style the notes fairly trip off her bow, and her control of line appears effortless yet evidently conceals much careful preparation.

Kevin’s probably best known as an ace guitarist whose playing combines vibrancy and sensitivity, but he’s also a very fine singer with a keen grasp of the meaning and feeling in a lyric, as well as a songwriter of no mean stature (although The Music Bringer, which he wrote a number of years ago, is the disc’s only self-penned track). Both Rosie and Kevin turn in some appealing harmony vocal work here too, as you can hear best on the closing track, a brief foray into bluegrass territory Come And Go (which also highlights Kevin’s unassuming prowess on banjo), while they also regale us with an attractive cover of Waltzing’s For Dreamers along the way…

The disc’s three instrumental items seem on the surface to be less of a departure from routine, since the tune-sets comprise mostly fairly standard session tunes, but listen more closely and you’ll unearth some scintillating playing, especially amongst Kevin’s deliciously syncopated fretwork adventures, which more than compensates for the apparently mundane choices of material.

The Salty Diamond is a deceptively simply conceived and simply arranged affair which manages almost without trying to win over the listener with its quiet, undemonstrative sense of accomplishment and unerringly classy musicality.