Folk

The Weekend Australian - Review - - Music Reviews - Doug Wallen

Heard a Long Gone Song Lisa O’Neill River Lea/Rough Trade Across orig­i­nal and tra­di­tional com­po­si­tions, Lisa O’Neill’s fourth al­bum re­stores folk mu­sic’s stark grav­ity. What’s more, the Dublin-based singer-song­writer de­tails each song’s his­tory in the al­bum book­let, in­clud­ing changes she has made to pre­vi­ous ver­sions as well as her im­pe­tus for ap­proach­ing it. O’Neill takes these ar­range­ments just as se­ri­ously, en­sur­ing that her singing and her words are very much the fo­cus. That’s most ap­par­ent on two tracks ab­sent of any in­stru­men­ta­tion: the open­ing The Gal­way Shawl, which in­tro­duces both the dis­ci­plined com­po­sure and earthy emo­tional res­o­nance of her voice; and The Fac­tory Girl, on which guest Radie Peat joins in after nearly three min­utes to cre­ate a sus­tained dron­ing qual­ity to their com­bined voices.

The re­sults ring pure and true, and even when in­stru­ments do sur­face on the rest of the songs, they al­ways sit in the back­drop with a rare sense of re­straint. On the tra­di­tional mur­der bal­lad Along the North Strand, dra­matic streaks of fid­dle and bouzouki rise in in­ten­sity only when her own singing grows more swag­ger­ing to match, be­fore the ac­cor­dion-es­que con­certina ma­te­ri­alises to send it all home. A bass con­certina proves es­pe­cially mes­meris­ing on the slow and haunt­ing A Year Shy of Three, a tra­di­tional com­po­si­tion given new lyrics by O’Neill, while a lyric from the clos­ing Pogues tune Lul­laby of Lon­don lends the al­bum its name. By turns sooth­ing and dis­qui­et­ing, O’Neill’s de­ci­sive less-is-more ap­proach dares to pin down to­day’s flit­ting at­ten­tion spans.

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