Recorded in Austin, TX this is the 3rd solo LP for the 4th generation, Irish musician Siobhán O’Brien You Can’t Run Out of Love, (Independent – drops Jan. 17th). It features 10 tracks – 42-minutes of pivotal moments since she left her Irish homeland in 2016.
While inspired by artists such as Joni Mitchell, Joan Baez, Bob Dylan, Neil Young, & the late Leonard Cohen, Ms. O’Brien composes personal, heartfelt songs, fused with vulnerability & poignancy. “Love Is the Holy Grail,” possesses an atmosphere of melody & lyrical magic with Siobhan’s vocals warm, sincere & arresting throughout. Maintained as well, in her more ballad inspired tunes.
Siobhán plays acoustic guitar, Landis Armstrong (acoustic guitar, 12-string guitar, classical guitar) & Wayne Sutton (electric guitar). Naj Conklin thumps bass as John Bush adds drums, percussion & some keyboards. Matt Hubbard (Rhodes, synth, vibraphone, piano, melodica, trombone, harmonica, bells & backing vocals). None of the instrumentation is hokey, clichéd or cheesy.
Siobhán lays down serious vocals with potent lyrics on “Give Me Back the Love,” in a voice similar in tradition to Buffy Saint-Marie, Joan Baez without the reediness. Her voice has moments of coffee-flavored dynamics, whiskey tinged bite & since she doesn’t linger long in any showboat her tone is ever clear.
A heavier tune “The Burger Song,” displays her roller coaster vocal ride of highs and lows, accentuated words, & deep detonation of chosen lyrics. Naj’s bass bellows & the percussion: decorative. The guitars come & go with little reminders of their presence as they accentuate the lyrical drive. Toward the finale, a piano run & harmonica lifts the tune with ease. Some young musicians do indeed know how to add adrenaline.
Siobhán’s voice changes again on track 6 – “Hold Me In Your Arms” utilizes with skill a more MOR style. Not unlike past vocalists like Vicki Carr, the late Kirsty McColl, 60’s pop singers Diane Renay, Skeeter Davis & Gale Garnett. There’s a nice pop element but it never comes off retro. The arrangement is viably contemporary, not commercial. Except for some of Ms. O’Brien’s song titles being fairly standard, the songs are strong & well-written. Sound-effects of children, carnival-keyboard I could’ve done without. The song is commanding without gimmicks.
“I Stayed Too Long,” isn’t quite Irish in nature but co-written with the fabulous Linda McRae – this is a great performance. Too bad Ms. McRae couldn’t make a guest appearance. She’s a marvelous musician as well. I like Siobhán’s vocal — bluesy, raw, & sounds like it was sown from Reba McIntyre seeds. Nice country-rock & the music has a saloon flavor. Drummer John Bush pounds wonderfully toward the finale. “She Hides My Plecs,” continues in a rock tradition. Ms. O’Brien is exceptional in this realm with her slightly Grace Slick (Jefferson Airplane) treatment. It’s all good.
Produced by Patty Simpson with John Bush & Matt Hubbard. Available at Amazon.