CD by Sean O’Neill.
Reviewed by Robert Craven
Recorded in one take, Still Life in Black and white is 14 songs, produced in a pared back production of acoustic guitar, double bass and Sean O’Neill’s vocals. The influences that flow through this CD are in places Bert Jansch in track 3’s ‘Will you..?’, O’Neill’s whispered voice and use of dynamics against the guitar’s pace is haunting and forces you to listen to the piece. There are shades of Woody Guthrie and Jonny Cash in the songs ‘Can’t seem to get the blues’, ‘Bob and Jenny’ and ‘Next time around’, all delivered with perfect timing.
‘Walking the Stones’ and ‘Chemistry lessons’ have a Richard Thompson, Mark Knopfler feel and you can feel the cold North East wind through the lyrics. ’Walking the stones with references to seagulls and the souls of sailors is particularly outstanding.
The strongest songs for me on the album are ‘Someone’s shining star’ with the lyrics reflecting loss, regret and sacrifice with a nod to Billie Barry, ‘Living’s going to be the death of me’, a jaundiced view of modern life including the wonderful line ‘I hate the taste of polystyrene, especially when it’s supposed to taste like tea.’ And ‘Sum of the parts’, a simple brilliant song about making a loaf of bread with granddad, and no bread tasting any better.
‘If we don’t have love’ is another strong song, with a Jaques Brel feel about fame, wealth and glamour delivered with a jaundiced eye and sparse delivery.
Song writing, like any writing is a craft that is something that is honed over time and Sean O’Neill has taken nine years to record ‘Still life in black and white’. Hopefully he won’t take another nine years to do another one. He’s generous also to credit co-writers Lee Ashley, Sophie Coyle, Shirley Clarke, Burton Jesperssen, Phylllis Travis, Klaus Capriani and David Garriock.
If anything I can add to this is it’d be wonderful if ‘Still life in black and white’ was taken up by a big label and allow a producer to really polish up these songs. That said, the pared back production on this allows Sean’s wonderful songs stand alone, and proud with it. Find him and friend him on Facebook and give his work a share.
Category: CD Reviews