It's been about ten whole years since I first contacted Niall Connolly to do a gig for the 'Inner Ear' sessions upstairs in Busker Browne's in Galway. And my how time has flown. For a poet, one rarely but gratefully stumbles upon a singer whose lyrics read as well and they sound. Josh Ritter has that knack, Sam Beam has that knack, perhaps a handful of others too if I were to sit down and think about it, but why sit down and think about it when any record of Niall's comes jumping to the forefront?
'Sound' is Niall's seventh album. Whatever about the seven year itch or any superstitions with that number, this album sails right through them. It would be unfair to compare to his earlier work to run the risk of sounding dismissive - and I use that word tactfully, such is the impact this new offering has had on me. From the offset, 'Samurai' sets the pace for 40 minutes of the most infectious music you are likely to hear for a long while. It is poetry sharpening its tongue on instrumental quality. Close your eyes and it is any movie you are in the mood for. 'Beef or Salmon' is story-telling with no holds barred (when I was down and out, when I needed a shove, he was a total prick to me, but he did it out of love) and trust me, 'Lily of the Mohawks' is a song you will be singing along to instantly. It too packs its political punch and you know its sincere ("the reality is, I’m going to sing that song hundreds, if not thousands of times. And I want to mean it every time"). By the time 'Year of the Dragon' began with its calm-before-the-storm opening strumming, I was already on edge. These songs were getting inside of me, messing me up and slapping me in the face telling me they weren't finished with me yet. 'Year of the Dragon' is a powerful, raw reaction to Sandy; the kind of vent we all look for when the shit hits the fan. In the next two songs we reach the eye of the storm - that ten minutes of calm that characterized much of Niall's earlier work from Songs from a Corner and As tomorrow creeps from the east addressing in personal poignancy that watchful eye over friends. I could go on. Whether its the finger-clicking 'Brooklyn Sky' or the truth of our online social addictions that comes jumping out of 'Come back to the table', I will say that this album will punch you in the stomach, wind you, prop you back up, and wallop you again. And as the credits begin to roll at the end of show, 'Work with Pigs' will help you up and offer you a shoulder as it escorts you out of the theater. Go buy this. Now. www.niallconnolly.com