Paul Cuthbert
Submitted: 26/12/2003

In this modern age of Pop Idol and Fame Academy, it may seem a little strange to stumble over real musical talent in the middle of a field in Co. Kildare. However, this was not always the case. A few decades ago, it may have been common place to find little farmer boys sitting on fences up and down the island of Ireland, watching the world go by, strumming away at their guitars without a care in the world. The man I am talking about is Damien Rice. Now, you may ask yourself “Who is Damien Rice?” I found myself asking that question at the Witnness Festival in Kildare last summer. I didn’t know who he was. I didn’t know what he could do. I didn’t know if I was going to like what I was about to hear. For all I knew, he could still be a little farmer boy who had made it big at such a young age. Afterwards I was in a state of awe. You might say I liked what I had heard. The first thing I did when I got home from that field was rummaged up enough cash to march down to HMV and pick up a copy of debut album ‘O’. On the first listen, it seemed like your average Irish singer/songwriter album.

Perhaps nothing special, maybe even a waste of money for some. Like a lot of albums, it takes a few plays to really kick in. Then, once you listen to every word, every beautifully strummed guitar chord, every graceful Cello note, you realise that this album really is something different to anything that had gone before it. Clearly influenced by the likes of the Great American artists, largely Don McLean, and also Simon & Garfunkel and British Folkster James Taylor, Rice sounds like he knows what he is doing, and he is doing it very well.

Most of the songs on this album are about love and friendship. Now, you might see this as common, almost clichéd songwriting. Damien Rice is different. His songs are heart-wrenching and brutally honest. This really involves the listener, and it feels as if he is sitting in the corner singing to you in person. You find that you can’t help but warm to his sadness and heartache. Some may see this as a little depressing, and it might even seem this way on the first listen. Once you get to know the songs, the depression and sadness disappears and the sheer brilliance of his lyrics shines through. Another great thing about this album is the broad range of musical styles throughout. Ranging from folky guitar ballads, through pop-rock tunes and even on to opera and hollering, it gives the album a broader sound. A key part of this sound is the addition of symphonic strings and the Cello of Vyvienne Long. Apart from anything else, it makes the album seem ‘Irish’ again, because listening to the album, at times it is easy to forget that Damien is in fact from the Dublin suburbs and not somewhere in the U.S.A. There isn’t a poor song on this record. Each one is well written and excellently performed, with the help of singer Lisa Hannigan, whose angelic voice gives an added beauty to each track.

On the singles ‘The Blower’s Daughter’ and ‘Volcano’, their voices compliment each other brilliantly, and with that Cello throughout, it is just marvellous. Other highlights include ‘Cannonball’ and ‘I Remember’ which takes a shocking detour into Tom Waits territory, with hollering and “weird” guitars. If you buy no other album this year, make sure you get your mitts on this one. It really is something else.


Submitted by fanbase member Paul Cuthbert.