ALBUM REVIEW: Lisa O’Neill – All Of This Is Chance | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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Rough Trade

Released: 10.02.2023


I’ve been living with this album for a fortnight and it’s still throwing up new wonders on every listen. Know this: you’re unlikely to hear a more original, more powerful, more breathtaking release than this all year.

What O’Neill does here is remarkable. The songs are steeped in poetry and sadness and loss and flight, in soil and sky. The album begins with O’Neill intoning poet Patrick Kavanagh’s lines from his poem about The Great Famine:

“Clay is the word and clay is the flesh / Where the potato-gatherers like mechanized scarecrows move / Along the side-fall of the hill.” 

Most albums don’t start that way. Nor do they contain gorgeous lullabies like Goodnight World, a closing song that makes everything okay, if only for a few short minutes. “Goodnight stars / Goodnight sky / Goodnight moon and sunshine / Everyone I love lies under you tonight”. And they definitely don’t contain a song like Old Note, probably the best thing I’ve heard in a year or more. This is six minutes of absolute beauty; her voice lifted in wonder; the arrangement dramatic without being bombastic, sounding almost like Veedon Fleece; the lyrics alive to possibilities like Walt Whitman or Thoreau; her niece’s barely audible voice at the end, “The song is over, that’s why she’s sad, that’s why she’s lying down”. This song ruins me and fuck avoiding hyperbole.

It’s a review so I owe you some comparisons: Lankum and Ye Vagabonds for sure, although that’s maybe a bit lazy. A sense of dizzy wonder that conjures up golden era Van Morrison. Her voice recalls Josephine Foster and Karen Dalton as much as any folk singer, it’s by turns raw and vulnerable and wondrous and fierce, and sounds utterly distinctive. What is clear is that as great as predecessor Heard A Long Gone Song was, this is an astonishing development, in ambition and realisation. I’ll save us all embarassment by bandying around words like ‘transcendent’ but this is a very fucking special album indeed.


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