Rónán Ó Snodaigh - ‘The Playdays’
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.