Review by Gillian McGee
It’s hard to believe that this marks the 8th studio album from Niall Connolly. A little bit because where did the time go. But mainly because when you listen to Dream Your Way Out of This One you can’t help but be struck by its freshness and at times almost raw sound. Connolly is someone who isn’t jaded by the album process or the gigging scene or tempted by the frills of overproduction so it all feels like a new venture.
That’s not to say that this isn’t a polished accomplished album – because it very much is. Niall is based in New York for over ten years and themes of that city, it’s sights and sounds , placing yourself as an immigrant in a strange land (fitting in, being accepted and accepting all that’s around us) run throughout the album . Connolly collaborates with his New York based band in this album and a lot of what we hear he says is born from the the creative process tied into his New York based music nights called Big City Folk Collective. There’s beautiful instrumentation (from trumpet, to synths to bird song) and gorgeous complex sounds throughout but it’s not in your face. Which is important as with an artist like Niall Connolly the lyrics should be to the fore , for he is at the core a folk artist, a poet with a beautiful way with words and the true gift of writing a catchy tune.
The album has a strong opener with ‘Sacre-Couer’. There’s a dreaminess to this song that draws you in and makes you want to follow the stories Connolly tells us, we want to listen to what makes his heart beat. ‘Dream your way out of this one’ , the title track written about the harshness of New York winters is a catchy tune and a total change of pace with a hip hop beat and mantra for us to stick our ears into. Throughout the album you are struck by Connollys sharpness of observation and twisting of common phrases. You are definitely left questioning what exactly are we doing to each other and how we are living life in our ‘little worlds’ these days. The march like quality of ‘I am a Good Man’ is a great example. ‘We look after our own’ he repeats, how often do we hear that now and so it becomes normalised. But oh no no Connolly says ‘Open Your Eyes’ and lets do much better, I’m living this and you know it’s not how it should be, it’s a very timely topic. It’s also a message backed with history and the beautiful pure folk ballad of ‘May 12th, 1916: A Song for James Connolly’ fits in here perfectly.
Niall Connolly should be dead proud of this beautiful album. It’s a perfect balance of the political, personal insights, questions and stories in the finest of modern nodding to the old folk tradition. A listen that will make you stop and think and feel like you’re right there with him, hopeful that there’s better to come for each and all of us, sure as he says ‘Come on people we aren’t beaten yet’ ,‘Come on in it’s safe and sound’ – a hero dreaming his way out of this one after all.
Niall Connolly is currently on tour and plays with full band this Friday the 29th of September in Coughlans , Cork.
Gillian is one half of Twitch Jnr keep up to date with them at https://www.facebook.com/TwitchJnr/