May I start with a confession? Until eight days ago, I hadn't heard of let alone heard Emily Smith. Were it not for my stumbling upon her spell-binding performance of "Sweet Lover of Mine", a shining jewel in an otherwise execrable programme of highlights from the Cambridge Folk festival on Sky Arts, I would still be walking in ignorance now. It took The Unthanks - another chance discovery - to persuade this committed rock fan that folk music was an interesting genre, worthy of further exploration; it took Emily Smith but a few minutes to open up a world of exquisite beauty.
As other reviewers have noted, Emily's voice has a startling, pure, crystalline quality that truly shines on the quieter, reflective songs. If you're not affected by her performance on "Audience of Souls", "The Mermaid of Galloway", "Old Mortality" or "Winter Song", book a check-up with your doctor as there is clear evidence that your heart has stopped beating. Nevertheless, for me, the highlight of an outstanding album is the driving, up-tempo folk-rocker, "May Colven", which marries her outstanding vocals to some terrific playing from her first-rate band.
I've been collecting albums for nearly 40 years. This magnificent offering is up there with the best of them.