John O’Connor aka John Blek of John Blek and the Rats has put together a solo album of his own. The album, entitled Cutting Room Floor, is a collection of songs written by John that didn’t fit in with any of the Rats material to date. Until now, they were homeless. So it is reassuring that John has not let them go to waste. And while the title suggests these songs are scraps they are in fact quiet beautiful in their stripped back simplicity.
The album is full of stories. There are stories of the personal dreams and experiences of John himself. ‘Portland, Oregon’ is descriptive but John has never been here. Rather, this is how he sees the city and what he imagines his life there would be like. Then there are stories he has heard over time. “Mrs Black and Blue Eyes” is a tale of domestic abuse heard through the walls. In it the narrator asks the woman to “Just leave the dirty bastard be// and be my dear”. “Hold Your Horses”and “Valarie” talk about relationship break ups and how differently both sides can see it. On “Valerie” the singer is first told by his mother-in-law how he alienated his lover. “I don’t know if you know// That you never really tried// Even when you held her close she felt like she could die”. Later this refrain is transposed into the first person. “I’m Still Here” and “Brother O’Brother” look at one’s place in the world. There’s loneliness, cigarettes and plenty of drinking.
Sticking to the Americana genre of singer songwriters like Willie Nelson and Woody Guthrie, John uses the genre to bring up less savoury topics never bringing the listener down just keeping them enthralled as he tells his tale.
Cutting Room Floor asks a lot of questions about where we belong in the world. In finding a place for these songs John seems to be reassuring us all that we belong somewhere and the search is just part of the journey.
Released November 28th John Blek has a few gigs around the country. He plays Levis’ Bar, Ballydehob Saturday Dec 7th. He supports Casey Black in Mick Murphy’s, Ballymore Eustace Dec 8th. Then the official launch party will take place Dec 11th in Coughlan’s Bar, Cork.
Also available in Tower Records, Dublin, Plugd, Cork, Music Zone, Douglas, Cork and Rollercaster Records, Kilkenny.