I’ll admit it – I have a pretty short musical attention span. My mind still works in vinyl album-side mode: after about 20 minutes of the same artist I tend to drift. It is the rare CD that holds my attention for a full 60 or 70 minutes, and due to the insular similarity and reatively small dynamic range of most acoustic singer-songwriter music, it is rarer still for a CD of that ilk to hold my attention.
But hold it indeed does introspective, wistful, alt-folk troubador Damien Rice on his self-recorded and produced debut, O. The CD was a sensation when released last year in Rice’s native Ireland, eventually going triple-platinum, and came out here in June.
Though still in his twenties, Rice seems to marshall the accumulated poignancy of Irish history in the opening dirge “Delicate,” highlighted by his expressive tenor (somewhere between David Gray and Don McLean) and Vyvienne Long’s mournful cello.
The vocal interplay between Rice and (Beth Orton-like) Lisa Hannigan, and a strong backbeat drive “Volcano.” I find “The Blower’s Daughter,” though a huge hit in Ireland, relatively uninteresting: a bit too freighted with MEANING, the poignancy forced rather than organic.
Sprightly picked and strummed acoustic guitars (bringing to mind some of the best of Cat Stevens) enlivens “Cannonball”; “Older Chests” speaks hauntingly of the accretion of time that results in age, with attendant understanding and loss. “Amie” evokes similar emotional space, but with an even lovelier melody.
“Cold Water” is a tad too glacial for my taste, but the disc ends on a bizarre high with the conspiratorial, incantatory “Eskimo” (“I look to my eskimo friend when I’m down, down, down”), which remarkably busts into operatic soprano from Doreen Curran for its coda – didn’t see that one coming, I assure you.
Rice is coming to the U.S. in September and early October:
Wed 10 USA Philadelphia TLA
Thur 11 Canada Toronto El Mocambo
Sat 13 USA Boston Paradise
Mon 15 USA New York Irving Plaza
Tue 16 USA Pittsburgh Club Cafe
Wed 17 USA Louisville Headliners
Thur 18 USA Birmingham Workplay
Sat 20 USA Nashville Belcourt
Sun 21 USA Atlanta Cotton Club
Tue 23 USA Chicago Park West
Wed 24 USA Minneapolis Fine Line
Fri 26 USA Boulder Fox
Mon 29 Canada Vancouver Richards
Tue 30 USA Seattle Crocodile
See his site for more tour information.