Declan O'Donovan

REVIEW: Declan O’Donovan “Amok”


Declan O’Donovan – Amok

With a slight touch of Graham Parker tonality with less caustic urgency & anger, Yukon singer-songwriter Declan O’Donovan approaches his music with an earthy evocative style on his 3rd CD. Because of his quirky vocalizing spirit, his songs get over in a refreshing original manner. Nothing is remotely dragged down by a dour laconic identity. Declan introduces melodies wrought from narratives like a hospital patient, a character in an Edgar Allan Poe tale & people in precarious situations. He shapes his music around moments & personalities that have run amok.

Declan O'Donovan

Some songs have a tinge of psychedelia much the same as the folky experiments of the late John Martyn. “Get Thee Behind the Wheel,” & “More Was Said Than Done,” even have structures similar in nature to some Nick Drake tunes & when O’Donovan sings his slow songs the Nick Drake drama seeps into each self-assured performance. “Many Years From Now,” has this suggestion with the pensive piano & slow elegance with gravelly flair planted in a pot of rich vocal soil.

Lyrics breeze through & though O’Donovan doesn’t have the invention of Drake or the varied vocal tonalities of Martyn each song has its quaint sensibilities & relevancy. The solo guitar in “More Was Said Than Done,” has that cool reserve of David Gilmour just pouring out like syrup to flesh out the atmosphere followed by the final strains of a Procol Harum-type Hammond organ. Well done.

Produced by Colin Stewart in British Columbia the 9-cut 46-minute Amok (Dropped April 14– Independent) is a powerful statement with creative lyrics (included in the inner CD spread). “All the World Above You,” is superb – the one song that says it all as far as who Declan is. It’s like Townes van Zandt wrote a song with Bruce Cockburn & Randy Newman sang it. There’s a subterranean overtone of progressive music (never heavy) under the beautiful balladry.

At times Declan even touches upon but never imitates John Hiatt with his well-manicured vocalizing. Instrumentally there are no showboating moments just tidy melodies played with clarity & expertise which makes them all the more attractive. Declan has a formidable approach that is sophisticated yet never loses its distinctive grip. Lots of worthy little tunes on this interesting album. A good listen.

Highlights – “Within the Pale,” “Every Revolution Around the Sun,” “Get Thee Behind the Wheel,” “Many Years From Now,” “All the World Above You,” “Maggie,” “God-Fearing Men” & “More Was Said Than Done.”

Musicians – Declan (vocals/piano/Clavinet/Wurlitzer/Rhodes organ/synths/acoustic guitar), Darren Parris (electric bass), Leon Power (drums/percussion), Paul Rigby (acoustic & electric guitar/nylon-string guitar/mandolin) & Layten Kramer (electric guitar on “Many Years From Now”).

B&W image from Declan’s Bandcamp & website. CD @ Bandcamp &

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