Info: Gary O'Neill is a Kilkenny singer-songwriter and folk artist who spent much of his musical career doing the live music circuit in Dublin, he has recently relocated to Chicago following the release earlier this month of his debut album, Around The Robin. Describing the album he says; 'Around The Robin is a collection of songs that surfaced in early 2016. I wanted to make a record where the songs could speak for themselves - an album where the sentiment of a song was perfectly captured. Accompanied by my brother, Stephen Lovatt - we found a beautiful wide open room in Elektra Studio's and live tracked the whole thing. The idea behind it was to give these bunch of songs some natural breathing space, and to put more focus on getting the 'right' take, rather than the 'perfect' take.'
The album opens with the sweet ballad 'Hopeless Vagabond', O'Neill bringing a sound that is markedly different to the lighter and more humour-filled leanings of last years Gracefully With Haste EP. The production is strong and puts additional flesh on his sound, the closing harmonies and effects create a truly uplifting atmosphere for the listener.
Third track 'Beggars' has nice bluegrass electric guitar to accompany the acoustic rhythm, the first single from the album, it's got Americana stamped all over it, building up to a frenetic finale courtesy of some excellent fiddle playing by Meg LaGrande. 'Blue Boy' arrives next, a beautifully melodic lament that suits O'Neill's crystal clear and calming vocals very well, and in keeping with the rest of the album, the lyrics act as a medium for his story-telling.
'Lost Angelica' confirms just how much O'Neill has matured as a song-writer, it's bare opening fills up with more finely honed harmonies and mellow electric guitar progressions, with this artist you are always struck by the authenticity and earnestness put into both music and lyric, this track being a case in point. The albums second last track, 'Little Liberties', allows us to bask in its warm glow, like a lullaby that brings us gently downstream on a hazy summers day to the point where you end up completely lost in the music and vocals.
In trying to establish who O'Neill would remind me of it didn't really strike me until the albums closing track, 'Golden Rivers', he inhabits a space somewhere between Devendra Banhart and José González musically whilst vocals lightly touch on the likes of Damien Jurado or Ben Howard. Recorded in just one take, the song is heart-wrenching, a mood that is bound by LaGrande on strings once again. Ultimately Gary O'Neill has made an album full of heart and soul and a noticeable advance on his previous releases, a sweet collection of well thought out songs which he clearly took great care to get right.
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