Following 2018’s collection Heard a Long Song Gone for the River Lea imprint, The Wren EP in 2019, and an adaptation of Bob Dylan’s ‘All the Tired Horses’ for the final scene of epic TV drama Peaky Blinders, Lisa O’Neill’s latest, her first album for the Rough Trade label, is entitled All Of This Is Chance.
Long since noted as one of the most evocative singers and writers in contemporary Irish music, All Of This Is Chance is a collection of new work that takes Lisa’s voice to greater heights, or depths, depending on which way you look at it.
Throughout this album Lisa’s gaze is often fixed on a sky full of animated birds, conniving, posturing, impostering, squawking scoundrels of the air, not unlike their human counterparts that operate beneath them. And beyond the birds, and the clouds, she is stargazing deep into the atomized constellations of outer space of which we ourselves are fragments.
But every story starts somewhere and Lisa O’Neill starts this extraordinary collection here back on earth, on Irish soil, hands in the land, taking cues from the great Monaghan writer Patrick Kavanagh. In 2020 The Abbey Theatre invited Lisa to perform in their historic outdoor adaptation of Kavanagh’s tragic 1942 masterpiece The Great Hunger on the grounds of the Irish Museum of Modern Art in Kilmainham. The experience of immersing herself in and researching Kavanagh’s remarkable 6,000-word poem has contributed to some of the intertwining themes that inhabit this elemental album. When reading Kavanagh she was reminded of the speech of her Mother’s townland, Crosstoney.
The poem itself obviously references the great famine of almost a century earlier but it’s more specifically themes of starvation of creativity, the absence of distraction, and stimulation as imposed on the farmers hopelessly bound to the land – a famine of imagination, as it were – that inspired Lisa.
Throughout the album, Lisa is flanked by esteemed musicians, including long-time collaborator on bass Joseph Doyle, Kerry concertina guru Cormac Begley, the cinematic genius of Colm Mac Con Iomaire, Kate Ellis of the Crash Ensemble, pianist Ruth O’Mahony-Brady, drummer Lorcan Byrne, producer Dave Odlum on guitar, as well as Colm O’Hara on trombone, Brian Leach on hammer dulcimer, Mic Geraghty on harmonium and David Coulter on saw. Lisa’s young niece, Sadie-Mae O’Neill supplies a precious additional voice on ‘Old Note’. The overall effect is controlled yet feral, tempestuous yet tender.
On her fifth album Lisa O’Neill’s voice has found even greater depth and ability since we last heard from her in 2019. O’Neill’s own voice transcends words into raspy witchy incantations as her musicians cling to a barely tonal psychedelic cacophony around her.
Release: February 10th, 2023, Rough Trade/Remote Control