In real life Oonagh Derby is a PR representing a number of distinguished Irish artists. Behind that façade, however, there is a diva waiting to burst out. Breathe is her second solo album and where it fits on the musical spectrum is open to debate. For the most part these are romantic songs written or co-written by Oonagh. Her small band has constructed superb arrangements based on Cormac O’Kane’s keyboards and Paul Campbell’s string arrangements but the decorations are what make the album stand out.
So we can call Breathe sophisticated pop but it sometimes leans towards blues and jazz and even acoustic folk with the acoustic guitar of ‘Missing You’. The opening title track opens to an almost Latin rhythm – music to move your hips to is her tag – with nice acoustic guitar leads. The guitars of David Bell and Dick Farrelly are a real feature throughout. It shouldn’t but ‘Everything’ comes as a bit of a shock because it opens with the gravelly vocals of Conor McGuinness and just for a moment I wondered where Oonagh got that voice from. It’s actually a great bluesy song.
Oonagh has dedicated Breathe to her mother and ‘Mothers Heart’ perhaps explains why. The piano intro is a variation of ‘Young Sailor Cut Down In His Prime’ but I don’t think we should read too much into that. Oonagh takes the role of the mother writing to her daughter in America but the song isn’t set in this century; more likely the time of mass emigration following the famine.
The songs are described as being written by a woman for a woman but that shouldn’t put off the other half of the population. I like it.
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‘Everything’ – live: