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Imelda Day: The Liberty Belle

Irish Artists

Imelda May has established herself as one of Ireland’s many great music performers and poets, having released five studio albums as well as a stunning spoken word EP in June 2020.

Imelda Day: The Liberty Belle

May’s musical range has evolved from it’s early foundations of rockabilly and blues, heard predominantly throughout her first four albums, all the way through to the classically soulful and powerful productions on her last album, Life Love Flesh Blood

Hailing from Dublin’s Liberties, May began her music career performing in clubs around the capital before moving to London in 1998. She became heavily involved with the city’s rockabilly scene and consequently developed a confident and vintage style both musically and visually for her solo project.  

May first released her debut album titled No Turning Back in 2003 under her birth name, Imelda Clabby. After some fine tuning, the album was re-released in 2007 under her new artist name, Imelda May. No Turning Back is a warm vintage sounding rockabilly record full of 1950s rock and roll influences heard most prominently on the likes of Dealing With The Devil, Cry For Me Baby and Don’t Do Me No Wrong. But even on an album as early as this one, May demonstrates her musical range as she presents a more delicate, though no less powerful, performance in tracks such as Once More, End of the World and Forever You and Me. Though rockabilly is undoubtedly at the core of No Turning Back, May and her band incorporate elements of bluegrass and country throughout, resulting in a unique and timeless sounding record.

In September 2010, May released her third album Mayhem. She consequently enjoyed further success with the release of this record as it hit number one in the Irish Albums Chart once again, as well as reaching number one in the US Billboard Heatseekers Albums Chart. Pulling The Rug and Physco present Imelda and the band at some of their most high energy and explosive moments.

That same year, May reached an even wider audience as she performed alongside guitar legend Jeff Beck at the Iridium Jazz Club in New York City for a number of performances which were later released as a live album titled Rock n Roll Party Honoring Les Paul. This wasn’t the only performance with Jeff Beck that year as May played with the guitar maestro at the 52nd Annual Grammy Awards for a stunning rendition of Les Paul and Mary Ford’s How High Is The Moon
Imelda May continued her run of stellar rockabilly productions with the release of her fourth album, Tribal in April 2014. May was rewarded with yet another Irish number album and managed to hit the number three spot in the UK. Tribal contains plenty of work that fans came to love and expect from May, including the catchy rock and roll fueled It’s Good To Be Alive, but there are also some deviating moments as heard throughout the likes of Wicked Way, a sleek, slower number and the pop punk influenced Round The Bend.

Taking inspiration from the setup of Jools Holland’s expansive and much celebrated Later…With Jools Holland, Imelda May hosted her own show on RTE aptly titled The Imelda May Show. The show was performed and filmed in front of a live audience and aimed to celebrate Ireland’s love and passion for music while creating a platform for artists in the same way that allowed Imelda May to break through after appearing on Jools Holland’s show back in 2008.

When Imelda May returned in 2017 with her fifth studio album Life Love Flesh Blood, a brand new layer was exposed to reveal a powerfully honest and soulful range of music and lyrical content. Working with American guitarist and record producer T Bone Burnett, the album sees a departure from the rockabilly boogie that she had become synonymous with, with the focus turning to works that feature passionate and reflective vocals backed by stunning soul, jazz and blues tinged arrangements. Should’ve Been You catches Imelda delivering a sensational, powerfully charged vocal and hints of The Pretenders’ Chrissy Hynde are undoubtedly present. The record features some fantastic guest appearances from the likes of Jools Holland, Jeff Beck and Jack Savoretti. The album reached number two in the Irish Albums Chart and number five in the UK. 

2020 has seen Imelda May flourish further into dashing creative territory as she released a spoken word EP in June titled Slip Of The Tongue. This project is bold, full of wit and captivating as May addresses vital topics such as homelessness in Home and self love in GBH as well as taking time to reflect on the life of the performer in Roses. These poems are backed by stunning, subtle arrangements and May’s smooth, suave voice speaks to her audience in a meditative manner.

After the killing of George Floyd and with the world’s necessary increased awareness towards the Black Lives Matter movement, May posted a poem that she wrote in June titled You Don’t Get To Be Racist and Irish. The poem directly addresses the issue of racism in her home country and is a reminder that racism within these shores is inexcusable after Ireland was on the receiving end of oppression for so long. The poem coincided with the launch of Rethink Ireland, a new equity fund set up to support those in more unequal areas of society and to ultimately make Ireland a more inclusive place to live. 

In October 2020, Imelda May released brand new music once again. This time, the project was released as part of Record Store Day, an annual worldwide event which celebrates the culture of the record store. 11 Past The Hour was released digitally on 23 October and physically the following day on 10” red vinyl. The single continues with the evolution of May’s sound featuring classical string arrangements and a vocal delivery that wouldn’t sound out of place if written as a Bond song.  May also released her spoken word EP Slip Of The Tongue on 10” purple vinyl for the event.  


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