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Album: Lisa O'Neill - All of This Is Chance | reviews, news & interviews

Album: Lisa O'Neill - All of This Is Chance

Album: Lisa O'Neill - All of This Is Chance

The Irish singer-songwriter delves into the natural world for her magical new album

'A strikingly individual album, a cohesive whole musically and lyrically'

Lisa O’Neill is a part of the new wave of Irish contemporary folk artists, one that encompasses the likes of Lankum, Ye Vagabonds and John Francis Flynn, all of them putting their albums out on Rough Trade, which makes the venerable English Indie label something of a centre for what the present and future of Irish folk music sounds like. (Lankum’s Radie Peat and O’Neill have also sung together, on the excellent “Factory Girl”, part of the showcase This Ain’t No Disco.)

All of This Is Chance is O’Neill’s first release through Rough Trade, and her fourth album since the self-released Has An Album (2009) and it follows on from powerful, critically lauded albums Pothole in the Sky (2016) and Heard a Long Gone Song (2018), which earned her five BBC Folk Award nominations.

All of This Is Chance a poetic album, and a cinematic one too, dramatic in vocal delivery, in orchestration and arrangements, and in the poetry of O’Neill’s lyrics, too, whose power stems from a unique sense of perspective as much as the language per se, although great poetry opens the set on the title song, which includes words by the Irish poet Patrick Kavanagh from his work The Great Hunger.

After the opening title track, the following “Silver Seed” tumbles over itself with metaphors of nature, birds, berries, bees, blood, all set to a banjo accompaniment and fiddle by The Frames’ Colm Mac Con Iomaire, who orchestrates the following “Old Note”, a beautiful meditation on nature, “while walking home half in a dreaming”. This is a song that’s as slow as sleep and rich as Croesus, and leads into the ornithological hymn, “Birdy from Another Realm”, populated by peacocks, cuckoos and warblers, their behaviours acting as mirrors, perhaps magic mirrors, of our own destructive and creative human drives.

And so it goes, with a meditation upon our Big Blue Ball in “The Globe” followed by “Whist, The Wild Workings of the Mind”, with a haunting vocal and musical setting, commissioned by the National Gallery of Ireland and written in response to Frederick William Burton’s painting "The Meeting on the Turret Stairs". And a lullaby to close the eyes on this set, “Goodnight World”, with a sense of charm and weirdness; magical realism in contemporary folk form.

Throughout, her voice and lyrics are centre-stage and caught in the limelight, but she is brilliantly supported by an extensive range of players, including her long-time bassist Joseph Doyle, the cinematic genius of fiddler Colm Mac Con Iomaire, and cellist Kate Ellis. It’s a strikingly individual album, a cohesive whole musically and lyrically, and unlike anything you’ll hear elsewhere. Shame they don’t do those Folk Awards anymore.

@CummingTim

Her voice and lyrics are caught in the limelight, but she is brilliantly supported by an extensive range of players

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Average: 4 (1 vote)

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