By Ivan O’Donoghue

I’ve been a fan of Cormac’s ever since I heard The Citadels “Letting Go. Holding On” album, many years ago. I still listen to it on a regular basis, and I also listen to his follow-on solo albums. I was thrilled to see that Cormac has added extra instrumentation to a number of tracks, as it can sometimes be difficult to hold the listener’s attention over an entire album with just acoustic guitar and vocals. This is not, however, a return to the airy pop of The Citadels. It is a more introspective affair, with Cormac’s intimate delivery acting as the perfect vehicle for some of the most personal lyrics he’s ever written. The songs contain enough symbolism and metaphors to keep the exact meanings oblique, but there are a lot of painfully direct lyrics also, which spell out the message for the greatest impact. As he says in the closing track, Similes and Metaphors”

Similes and metaphors pale when compared to your skin.

There’s pain, regret, doubt aplenty here, but also hope, love.

cormacocaoimhThe recordings themselves have  fairly sparse arrangements, with a lot of ambience, making for a large but uncluttered sound that still manages to be intimate. An important part of the Cormac O’Caoimh experience is the guitar sound which has been gradually evolving over the last couple of albums, and comes partly from Cormac’s distinctive jazz-influenced finger picking, but partly from his Godin guitar. Cormac is a brand ambassador for Godin, and I was left in no doubt of his appreciation for his instrument when I complimented him on a nice looking guitar, having seen a picture on twitter. He was effusive in his praise of his Godin, and his guitar really has a distinctive tone.

The marcato strings, understated drums and ethereal backing vocals (courtesy of Aoife Regan) of Yellow Crumbs make for an uplifting and refreshing track. The appeal of Cormac’s songwriting is his ability to pick up on an insignificant detail of an important event and then spin an epic tale from that one morsel.

The title track is a quirky start-stop affair which is very different and demands attention.

Thirst and Water is poignant:

I’ve got a match
Your tears and my shoulder
Your heart’s getting cold
And mine’s getting older

Solid approaches bossa nova territory, with Colum Petit’s vituouso violin adding emotion to an already charged song:

To get out you must be in
To be forgiven you must sin
To end you must begin
To live you need loving

This album is a slow burner. I needed to let it wash over me a couple of times, digesting the lyrics, finding little details in the mix, before it really got its claws into me. Now I can’t stop playing it. This is his best solo work to date.