Irish singer-songwriter Brigid O’ Neill, with her new album The Truth & Other Stories, lightly skips tossed stones like thoughtful opinions across the early evening dusk Irish Sea waves. And she has a voice that floats with atmospheric turbulent concern, yet it touches the warm Earth born coffee house folk security that embraces the tapestry of “folk, blues, and beyond” (Thank you Davey Graham!).
The first song, ‘Live A Little Lie Oh’, has a labyrinth melody with a soaring vocal delivery and an earthy electric guitar weight. By the way, the chorus is quick snap brain synapse friendly. The song’s lyrics, in keeping with a central theme of the album, play with a jingle-jangled truth, refracted with prismatic perspectives.
Then things slow and flow with the emotive insight of Ralph McTell’s ‘Streets Of London’, with that “Same old man/Looking at the world over the rim of his tea cup”, when “Each tea lasts and hour and he wanders home alone”. Brigid O’ Neill conjures that very same pathos of humanity, as the ironic ‘Easy’ delves into the psychological piano-graced maelstrom of a lost love “gone six years” and a search for vacant hope, filled with “conversations with him every day”. As the poet Emily Dickinson once wrote, “Time never did assuage/Actual suffering strengthens the sinews/ As sinews do, with age”. So, Brigid sings, “I got on my new winter coat, makeup on my face. I got some flowers to bring to brighten up the place”. It’s a deeply emotive tune, as the purity of this folk music tea continues to “last an hour”, and then “wanders home alone”, once again.
The same is true for ‘Leaving’, a portrait in gentle musical miniature of an aged woman “leaving her home for one last time”.
In contrast, ‘Ask Me In A Year’ is an introspective glance into the need for personal freedom, which conjures the singer-songwriter vibe of Joni Mitchell’s Blue, with a slight jazzy ride.
The country violin driven (The Truth & Other Stories was recorded in Nashville!) surfaces with ‘Prayers’. The song seems to juxtapose religious promise with deeper questions of faith. Perhaps, the tune contains The Truth as well as several of those Other Stories, which (to mention her, again!) follows the Joni Mitchell maxim: “I’ve looked at both sides now”. It’s a brilliant lyric. And, by the way, the song evokes the lovely Southern honest pulse of (the great!) Kate Campbell, with albums Songs From The Levee or Moonpie Dreams.
Put simply: This is truly great singer-songwriter stuff. ‘Take A Day’ is a featherbed of acoustic guitar, violin, and evening star voiced comfort. Then there’s more country with an injection of blues in ‘You’re Not Gonna Leave Me Honey’, which adds fiddle and banjo. There’s even more country (all the way from the Grand Opera House in Belfast!) with ‘Messy Path’, a purebred tune worthy of the grand Ole Opry stage. Ditto for the steel pedal guitar pulsed ‘Amelia’. But oh – ‘Midwest Magic Club’ throws a mythical dart into the heart of the record. This is late night jazzy blues that name checks my neighbouring state Minnesota and creates a lovely surreal musical (and very different) labyrinth– this time with seedy temptations of hot emotions, “confusion”, “a peep show” or two, and the odd “optical illusion”. This tune stretches the depth of the album into some level of a jukebox platter in Dante’s Inferno. Nice!
The final song, ‘Pilot’s Weather’, is an absolutely lovely conclusion to an album that evokes melodic travel yet finds some certainty in the pursuit of uncertain wisdom—a wisdom guided by acoustic guitar, Brigid’s emotive vocals, a bit of longing brass, Emily Dickinson’s “strengthened sinews”, with a symbolic “urge for going” which as in the final groove of any great record, always “wanders”, thankfully, right “back home alone”, one more time.
Artist’s website: https://www.brigidoneill.com/about
‘Live A Little Lie Oh’ – official video:
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