Lisa Hannigan

Since writing her first album, 2008's Sea Sew, Lisa Hannigan has seen her life change in oh so many ways. She penned her first songs in hope rather than the expectation that the wider world might find a use for them; knocked out at rehearsals in a freezing barn in the Irish countryside; and produced her debut at a friend's studio within a fortnight. Yet the self-released Sea Sew went Double Platinum, was nominated for the Choice Music Prize in her native Ireland and the Mercury Prize in the UK, and saw Hannigan play bewitching guest spots on the likes of Later with Jools Holland, The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, and The Colbert Report.

It doesn't take long in the company of Hannigan's second album Passenger, released last year, to hear the excitement of her debut effort repaid with interest. Hannigan famously made her name as the beautiful, breathy accompaniment to Damien Rice, with whom she sang and toured for seven years. It is on this second solo album that you sense she's truly found her own voice, and it is on aching, mournful form from the very opening song. "I never used to feel comfortable calling myself a songwriter," she says. "I just used to think of myself as a singer. But now, I allow myself that luxury." In time, Hannigan may even allow herself to believe she is a great songwriter. Listen to Passenger, and you'll believe it too.

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Joe Henry

Grammy Award-winning singer-songwriter and producer Joe Hendry resists easy classification. Originally winning acclaim for his country-influenced efforts Short Man's Room (1992) and Kindness of the World (1993), he has since gone on to release albums that draw from a broad palate of influences, including rock, blues, jazz, and numerous forms of alternative music. His production and songwriting resume is formidable as well, including work with icons like Bonnie Raitt, Meshell Ndegeocello, Aaron Neville, Mose Allison, Ramblin' Jack Elliott, Susan Tedeschi, Ani DiFranco, and Solomon Burke. He also produced Lisa Hannigan's latest album Passenger, which dropped last year.

Henry's own recent solo efforts include the jazz-tinged Scar (2001), the immaculately intricate Tiny Voices (2003), the richly acoustic Civilians (2007), and the orchestral blues record Blood from Stars (2009). Like Hannigan, Henry released his latest solo effort, Reverie, in 2011. The simplest record the songwriter has ever cut, the instrumentation is sparse enough to allow the sound of the outside world to bleed through the music at certain points on the disc. "It just occurred to me when I was writing songs one day that there's no such thing as silence," mused Henry, "so I decided to emphasize that fact, because I think it's real. I don't think any real music ... I don't think any real living happens in a vacuum."

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