In the late 1990s, Eleanor McEvoy’s relationship with her record company Columbia was becoming strained.
The company was unhappy with her changing style. The fact that she performed a 24-date sell out tour and an unplugged tour the following year kept the record company executives at bay for a while but further cracks were starting to appear.
When Columbia had signed McEvoy, they had also bought the rights to her first album but they did not release it. Neither of McEvoy’s two albums with Columbia had performed as well as the label would have liked and it seemed that they were starting to focus their attention elsewhere.
By 2001 when McEvoy’s fourth album, Yola, was released, she had parted company with Columbia Records. Yola was released on an independent label and was another change of musical direction.
There was a strong acoustic jazz feel to the album and it was another hit with the critics who praised McEvoy’s “brave rejection of the predictable”. The album was named Record of the Year by Hi-Fi+ magazine.
Her fifth album, Early hours, followed in 2004. There was a jazz/blues feel to many of the songs. It was a hit with music fans and was named Best Contemporary Album in the Irish Music Magazine Readers’ Poll.
In 2007, she released her sixth album, Out There. The album was created almost entirely by McEvoy. She wrote and produced all the songs.
She also played every instrument on all the songs apart from the guitar on Quote I love you Unquote, which was played by Dave Rotheray, and the drums on three tracks which were played by Liam Bradley. Out There earned McEvoy her second Record of the Year from Hi-Fi+ magazine.
She was voted Best Traditional Act at the Big Buzz Awards, which highlight the talent and achievements of Irish performers. The award is particularly meaningful as it is voted for by the public.
The following year she released her seventh album, Love Must Be Tough. It was the first album she released where only half of the songs were written by her. The other songs on the album are covers of love songs written from a male perspective but tweaked so she as a female singer could sing them to a man. This album was also named Record of the Year by Hi-Fi+ magazine.
At the end of 2008 she released a singles collection entitled, Singled Out, which featured songs from her previous four independently released albums.
In 2010 she released her eighth album. I’d rather go Blonde was another big hit with the critics with Maverick Magazine saying: ‘This absolutely stunning album has been a real find – one of the most compelling female singer-songwriters I’ve heard in a long time.”
McEvoy’s ninth album, Alone, was released in 2011. It is a no frills album that was recorded in a quiet countryside studio when McEvoy had an extra long gap between tour dates. Inspired by the tranquility of the countryside, McEvoy stripped down tracks to the bones and created a haunting album with a very intimate feel.
It is difficult to predict what might come next musically for McEvoy. She has delighted fans and critics since the early 90s with her permanent quality but ever evolving style. Hopefully she will continue to surprise many years to come. One thing is for sure – she will make an album that she is happy with and will not be swayed by musicians of any genre.
She once said: “I hate snobbery in music. Music is something that’s so good and all encompassing. When classical musicians look down at rock musicians I say to them: “You couldn’t busk Happy Birthday if I paid you. You just read what’s written in front of you. You could teach a monkey to do that.”
Then when my rock friends insult classical music I tell them: “You don’t know what’s involved. They’re playing some of the finest music on this planet.”