CD Review: Roisin O’s “Secret Life of Blue”

Roisin O’Reilly

Secret Life of Blue (3 U Records)

By Brian Arsenault

Secret Life Blue of begins with the Irish instruments on “Here We Go” rising like a summer storm. Then a voice so pure, Roisin O’Reilly’s, which I have compared to Joni Mitchell’s, as I can think of no higher compliment.

Roisin O'Reilly
Roisin O’Reilly

Yet she has very much her own pipes; a voice as yet undamaged by time or self abuse. Like a new flower or a fresh mowed meadow.

Roisin has the background. I first saw her on a short U.S. tour singing a few songs with a family member. And I knew. I just knew. This gem of an album was bound to occur.

And what should I call this music, I ponder. Rock through a Celtic haze perhaps. New Irish folk tunes maybe.

Something else, though, in this music. A next generation. A circle fully drawn.

How Long” has an opening from the West Virginia hills. Emmy Lou could sing it. As if Irish pain has crossed the Atlantic to American folk then bounced back again to its native land.

Tell me no lies” she pleads. “That’s all I want.” Good luck with that.

Roisin’s song writing, often in company with the various band members, has a Neil Young directness and deceptive simplicity with an occasional wild Irish howl that is like a female response to Van Morrison with the Chieftains.

And, ah, the others in the band.:

Ruth O’Mahony Brady on keys mostly. Must be her wonderfully on piano on “Tea Song.“

Brian Murphy on bass and singing deep and soulfully, also on “Tea Song,” with Roisin; his deep notes the perfect counterpoint to her high end work here. They might think about doing more of that.

Alan Joseph Tully, principally on guitar, strumming like David Crosby on “You Owe Me a Drink“ and elsewhere slippin’ and a slidin’ in and around Roisin‘s vocals.

They are linked by soul if not entirely by blood.

The layered Celtic rhythms in all the songs seem to rise from the very earth. They spin and weave like faeries in a folk tale. Integral to the poetry of the songs.

Hope and melancholy blend throughout on this album. Something terribly Irish about that.

From “Filled With Snow” wherein she sees her lover’s “buckle(d) brow” and feels “the dew from your skin on my hand.” Oh there will be “a day that is just ours.” But just a day, not a lifetime.

Again Irish . If it’s good, there’s a good chance it won’t last.

On “Let’s Find Some People,” there’s a Carole King-like life affirming hopefulness interspersed with bed-ridden depression.

Nothing sugar coated here but there is strength and love, or is it the strength of love, emerging and perhaps redeeming throughout.

On “Climb High” Roisin argues “There is a reason for all this dreaming” while wondering if “Writing down words just cause you can” is “how it’s supposed to be.” Neil Gaiman would approve of the “dreaming” portion and countless scriveners with the second part.

The album closes with an admonition to “Find the Light” and an homage to “The Secret Life of Blue.”

Is blue to dominate? Is sadness winning? There’s something terribly Irish about that too. Still, there’ll be a fight if only fought with poetry and music.

Oh, by the way, when I first saw her, Roisin was on tour with the great Irish singer Mary Black, her mom. I didn’t want to make too much of that at the start as it might make you think of her only in those terms. Wouldn’t be right.

Final note: The album seems to be available in CD form only in Ireland and curiously in Sweden, Germany and Austria. Elsewhere on iTunes.

* * * * * * * *

Photo courtesy of Roisin O’Reilly.

To read more posts, reviews and columns by Brian Arsenault click HERE.


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