Rónán Ó Sn­odaigh - ‘The Play­days’

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - NEWS - Donal Di­neen

It’s one thing to per­fect the play­ing of an in­stru­ment or to be able to do so within a group, but it’s an­other en­tirely to write a bunch of songs that some­how, via mag­i­cal think­ing or other in­de­ci­pher­able ways, end up gelling to­gether so sump­tu­ously that a clas­sic al­bum is made.

The climb is hard, but it’s to that point the great artist must reach in or­der to take the higher leap again to that re­ally spe­cial place at the top of the spec­trum.

Rónán Ó Sn­odaigh has been the lead singer with Kíla since 1987. That’s 20 long years of beat­ing the drum with power but with no lit­tle amount of sub­telty or panache ei­ther. The group formed in Coláiste Eoin in Co Dublin, a gaelscoil with a rep­u­ta­tion as a mu­si­cal hot-spot. The first in­car­na­tion in­cluded Colm Mac Con Io­maire and Karl and Dave Od­lum, each of whom were soon to be­come mem­bers of The Frames, with the lat­ter re­cently a Grammy-win­ning pro­ducer.

The back­bone of the group com­prised of Rónán’s brothers Rossa and Colm. Their com­mand of the tra­di­tional form gave them li­cense to ab­sorb influences from all di­rec­tions. Like all tight ex­ploratory mu­si­cal units, they found their own sound.

It was from this plat­form that Rónán Ó Sn­odaigh took flight with his solo records. The Play­days is the third of four to date, and it ranks as his finest.

That feel­ing at the heart of great records is hard to de­fine or ex­plain but when it’s present there’s a shine off ev­ery­thing and great mo­ments glis­ten un­com­monly brightly. Here most of th­ese high­lights be­long to sax­o­phon­ist Richie Buck­ley. It’s a dif­fi­cult in­stru­ment to as­sim­i­late into an en­sem­ble while tak­ing a lead role, but Buck­ley plays with such beau­ti­ful re­straint that he sort of glides above it all.

The stan­dard of play­ing is ex­cep­tional ev­ery­where. This record’s got soul. Ó Sn­odaigh treads a del­i­cate lyri­cal path through a sound not un­like As­tral Weeks. His gut­teral tones are softer, speak­ing words of love that yearn for space and peace and quiet. It’s the way po­etic cham­pi­ons com­pose.

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