I may as well confess that the nearest thing I’ve heard previously to a complete Paul Brady album was probably actually by The Johnstons. Well, The Johnstons did, from time to time, step quite a long way beyond their traditional roots (I rather liked their version of Brel’s ‘Port Of Amsterdam’), but since his first album of self-penned songs in 1981, Brady’s own material has successfully negotiated an unusually wide range of musical styles. His new album Maybe So, released on April 22nd 2022, is – if we must categorise – soft-ish rock rather than folk, with the exception of one track, but it does offer very pleasant listening.
- ‘How Come I Feel Bad?’ [Paul Brady/Theo Katzman]. I’m always wary when a successful musician sings about money not being enough, but this track has a pleasant blues-funky edge that is definitely growing on me.
- ‘Nothing Is As It Seems’ [Paul Brady/Paul Muldoon]. This song features an ambitious lyric that mostly works very well. Aided by some atmospheric slide and e-bow guitar by Bill Shanley. The vocals seem a little strained here.
- ‘To Be The One’ [Paul Brady] is a straightforward love song, very nicely sung. Very nice percussion here by Liam Bradley.
- ‘The Shape That I’m In’ [Paul Brady/Sharon Vaughn]. A reflective song with a memorable lyric: “I’m in pretty good shape / for the shape that I’m in.”
- ‘The Tower Of Gone’ [Paul Brady/Michael O’Keefe]. The title is evocative of Leonard Cohen’s ‘Tower Of Song’, and while the mood of the piece is more reflective and doesn’t aspire to Cohen’s satiric edge, a suggestion of Nashville is lent by Richard Nelson’s restrained pedal steel to the attractive lyrics and melody.
- ‘It’s A Beautiful World (Now You Are Here)’ [Paul Brady/Sharon Vaughn]. Frustratingly, the tune reminds me in part of something else, but I can’t remember what. Still, it’s a gentle and highly memorable melody, on which Brady plays all the instruments. The lyric contrasts the harsh times we live in with the comfort of loving someone, though the last few seconds of the track throw a different light on who that person might be.
- ‘When Love Comes Tumbling In’ [Paul Brady/Dillon O’Brian/Leah Andreone] was originally recorded in 2002, but here benefits from some additional processing. I’d call this pure pop, but it’s well done.
- ‘Just Behind The Veil’ [Paul Brady/Shay Healy] is something else entirely: a country-ish reflection on what it might be like to be beyond the grave, but watching over those who live on.
- ‘Improvisations On The Galway Reel’ [Paul Brady]. This is by far the folkiest track on the record, with Brady playing mandolin, piano and keyboards. While the tempo changes and ornamentation on this version would challenge the most dedicated ceilidh addict, it nevertheless makes for hugely enjoyable trip around a familiar tune. The lyric booklet says it was recorded in 1980, but it seems to have been remixed and remastered here. It sounds fine, anyway.
- ‘Stories’ [Paul Brady] seems to tap into the insecurities of songwriters who know they can never do justice to all the potential stories that “follow the human race” – well, I know that one…
- ‘Love Goes On’ [Paul Brady] is a relaxed, soulful song with a particularly attractive tune. A nice way to finish the album.
The range and quality of Paul Brady’s songwriting is clearly demonstrated by the number of talented artists who’ve recorded his songs, from Tina Turner to Mary Black, from Joe Cocker to Eric Clapton, and that quality is amply maintained on this album. The arrangements are all you’d expect from such an accomplished multi-instrumentalist, unobtrusively supported by other very able musicians. If you’re looking for songs comparable to ‘The Island’ or ‘Nothing But The Same Old Story’, I don’t think you will find them here, but these are mature songs by one of the best songwriters ever to come out of Northern Ireland.
Artist’s website: paulbrady.com
‘It’s A Beautiful World (Now you Are Here)’: