Label: Rough Trade - River Lea
Album: Heard A Long Gone Song
Tracks : 9
Heard a Long Gone Song by Lisa O’Neill
Heard a Long Gone Song is the latest album from Irish traditional singer Lisa O’Neill from County Cavan. Released by Rough Trade’s new folk arm, River Lea, it is a stark, haunting and quite simply gorgeous collection of songs sung with a nod to the sean nos style of Irish singing. This album is rawer and more desolate than Lisa’s recent works and probably reflects the situation in the world at the moment.
It opens with a stunning a cappella version of the old folk favourite The Galway Shawl which shows the quiet power of Lisa’s voice to the full as she wrings every ounce of emotion out of the song.
Along The North Strand, with some subtle guitar and at times eerie fiddle accompaniment, tells the traditional tale, sometimes referred to as The Seventh Girl. It is passionately sung and then surprises you by finishing with an incongruously upbeat melodeon tune.
Blackbird is an immeasurably sad song of lost love and loneliness, backed once again by some sensitive fiddle and guitar work. An old song from County Wicklow, The Lass of Aughrim follows with some beautiful banjo backing and a lovely melody lifting what is a quite dark song.
Violet Gibson is an original song about an Irish woman’s attempt to assassinate Mussolini in 1926. It is another sad tale closing with Violet ending her days in a Northampton mental asylum.
If there is one song that sums up this album it is surely the epic The Factory Girl. It has a stunning a cappella vocal (with harmony from Radie Peat of Lankum) and tells the tale of a young woman turning down the advances of a rich man who offers to make her a lady, The harmonies are simply spectacular and it is a remarkable piece of work.
O’Neill’s own composition Rock the Machine is next with its simple banjo and keys backing. It tells of the sense of loss among Dublin’s dock workers as mechanisation changes their lives. The vocal is stark and emotive and relentlessly tugs at the heartstrings.
A Year Shy of Three is a difficult song to listen to as it is filled with emotion and angst for the loss of a child. It is at once beautiful, haunting and disturbing and it showcases yet another masterful vocal performance.
The album closes with the Pogues song, Lullaby of London, given a new lease of life here with this beautiful version. Shane MaGowan’s fine lyrics are sung with an understated passion that befits the songs languid theme and the musical backing is perfectly pitched.
This is an album that delivers a raft of achingly good songs performed with an extraordinarily effective style that may not be to everyone’s liking but to me it hits the mark beautifully. It is a heart-breaking, gut-wrenching and starkly honest performance and one that drains the emotions. This is not easy listening but it is genuine Irish music at its absolute finest and I cannot praise it highly enough.