A hidden gem for fans of Joni Mitchell, Alanis Morissette and Dar Williams...

After coming to critical acclaim with her self-written single, 'Pilot of the Airwaves', (which climbed to number thirteen on the Billboard chart) in 1980, Charlie Dore has turned her hand in the intervening years to acting in TV, film, radio and theatre, not to mention finding time to pen hits for the likes of Tina Turner, Celine Dion, George Harrison, Jimmy Nail and Hayley Westenra.

But 2005 saw Dore stepping back into the spotlight herself with the release of 'Sleep All Day and Other Stories', reaffirming her position as an important character on the British singer songwriter scene, earning her many new fans, and seeing her described by the British press as a 'treasure'.

Now, 2006, and Dore is back again, with her second album of new material in two years, 'Cuckoo Hill'. The map of Cuckoo Hill in the album's jewel case instantly suggests that this is an extremely personal album; in fact, Cuckoo Hill is the street on which Dore grew up, and the place that was her family home right up until last year. If that wasn't personal enough, 'Cuckoo Hill' was written and recorded during, what Dore refers to as, the most turbulent year of her life, sadly losing both her father and her brother - to who the album is dedicated.

Imagine the dark, sombre atmosphere of 'Supposed Former Infatuation Junkie'-era Morissette, a sprinkling of Dar Williams' 'The Honesty Room' and just about any Joni Mitchell you care to mention, and you'll come somewhere near the superb standard of this album. 'Your Lover Called', with its smouldering trumpet and enchanting Eastern shuffle, and 'My Wayward Friend' are heart-wrenching and emotive with their painful reflections and punctuated syntax, yet sit comfortably alongside tracks like 'Looking For My Own Lone Ranger' and 'Someone Other', which exploit the crystalline, Joni Mitchell-esque elegance of Dore's vocals, perfectly complimented by hi-strung guitar and mandolin.

Meanwhile, less introspective but no less personal, Dore uses pretty vocals and a piano accompaniment to conceal the scathing attack of 'Captains of Industry'. Similarly, 'When Bill Hicks Died' emphasises Dore's respect for the controversial American stand-up comedian and social critic, wrapped up in a full-blown Bluegrass romp.

If you haven't had the good fortune to stumble across Charlie Dore yet, then make sure you find a copy of the captivating 'Cuckoo Hill'; it's nothing short of stunning.