Sometimes you just want to snuggle down and be wrapped in the voice you’re listening to. Niamh Varian-Barry has one of those voices. Have a listen to ‘Dusty Little Wings’, the opening track on the album Wings, and you don’t want to do anything other than just listen. Wings was released earlier this year and is the debut solo album of Varian-Barr, former lead singer of the highly respected Solas. The link below takes you to the video she used to help fund the album and gives you a good feel for the music – not just aurally but also, as befits the daughter of an artist, a visual sense of how embedded her work is to the landscape as well as the sounds of Ireland.
The album pulls off the difficult task of keeping the sense of being a single piece of art while covering a range of music in its eleven tracks and it maintains a sense of Irish musical style throughout. And it does this even though the middle of the album has a track ‘Tar Eis an Bhastaigh’ which reminds me of the art rock of Marianne Faithful from later periods of her career. This is pretty impressive given that the track sits effortlessly between a couple of tunes which are very different to this – it follows the strings, cor anglais and piano of ‘She’s Here’ (Varian-Barry’s newly born daughter) and is followed by ‘Gerry Barry’s’ a tune for violin and accordion written after hearing a melodic chime on a TGV station.
Varian-Barry has composed six of the eleven tracks. Whether it’s the pull of her voice or her violin/viola playing I’ve just wanted to sit and listen to Wings. There are tunes which can holds you with their stillness – the traditional ‘Dancing The Baby’ for example – or their liveliness (‘Escapade In A Minor’ or ‘Padrino’). And to finish where I started, there are songs where all you want to do is to listen to Varian-Barry’s voice. ‘The Lark Of Mayfield’ is just as affecting as the opening track. The stripped down version of ‘Satisfied Mind’ which closes the album is as affecting as any version (I’ve just dug many of them out on YouTube) of this widely covered song.
Wings is a debut album, but a debut from an experienced singer and musician with a handful of equally talented colleagues. It was engineered by Donogh Hennessy (ex of Lunasa) and is just a delight to listen to. Play it loud on a decent hifi and wait for your partner, or other passing strangers, to come in and say “That’s lovely, what are you listening to?”
Artist’s website: http://niamhvarianbarry.com