Recorded in just one afternoon, The Silver Sun is the New York-based Dubliner’s third album on which he’s joined by Benjamin Lazar Davis on keys, bass and electric guitar and Elise Leavy on backing vocals. Wheezing pump organ and swirls of mellotron warmly flow throughout ‘The Living Stream’, an otherwise simple acoustic guitar ballad matured in Irish folk vats with a theme of enduring love to and beyond mortality.
‘Bernadette’, from whence comes the album title with Leavy adding supporting vocals, is a simple fingerpicked number that charts the feeling of a relationship slipping away (“I see the tide begin to run”) while, stroked by mellotron and with a minstrel-like setting ‘The Birds Sing’ also speaks of love grown cold (“when you and I were new to love/we swore our hearts were true/but now our minds have changed”).
Once more casting a shadow over the heart, the dappled, fingerpicked ‘Passersby’ sketches a relationship where each side has become passing strangers to the other, or, if you want to think in marginally less downcast ways, of lives kept apart by different work patterns. Slightly more upbeat of pace, ‘Sister In Song’ questions connections and perceived relationships stretched across time and real or imagined histories as, with a hint of Cohen, he sings “I know you from somewhere/ I’ve seen you round/you look familiar/have I passed through your town?”
There’s more nimble fingerpicking on ‘For Another’, O’Leary on mandola and Davis on piano, Leavy’s harmonies weaving around rather than following the lead, the lyrics again treating on love and leaving, but here laced with imagery drawn from the Bible and Tarot in some kind of Bunyan or Milton reverie of lions and lizards, waxwings and the beasts of the field.
Opening on drone, the album’s longest track at nearly five and a half minutes is ‘Coal-Black Road’, a haunting quietly apocalyptic number (“let your cities weep/let the valleys mourn”) that, dressed in nature imagery, touches on time passing (“don’t the clouds move fast in a cloudless sky”) , loss and death, but closes with a gentle sense of acceptance as he sings “when their lights burn low/and the dawn is grey/let my memory rest/let my body lay”.
Joined by Stephanie Coleman on fiddle, that air of calm remains for the penultimate ‘No Eye’ wanders across a circling guitar pattern, O’Leary’s softly accented voice conjuring images of the power of nature, the land and the fellowship of friends to bring peace and contentment. It ends then with the slow waltz strum of ‘Houses and Lands’, Leavy harmonising as it opens with “Harden your heart/spit on your hands/out all things in order/your houses and lands”, but, again echoing Cohen, softens to sing “do not forget/the warmth of the wine/the pangs of a hunger/the forgiveness of time”, closing as a hymn of thanks for love, companionship, the simple pleasures of life, for “our home for the evening/for the rhythms of the road” and how “though the gods were jealous/we cared not for their curse”.
Warm and mellow, bathed in both sadness and joy, O’Leary’s voice soothing and reassuring, the silver sun casts golden rays.
Artist’s website: www.eamonoleary.net
‘Sister In Song’ – live with Elise Leavy:
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