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DAMIEN RICE: O


Reviewed by DAVE FRANKLIN


Maybe it's because this is not my regular taste in music, but Damien Rice seems to have come from nowhere overnight to deliver one of the finest albums of recent years. I know that the overnight success thing is just a myth, and is perpetuated by the way the music industry works, but Rice seems to be the man of the moment and his success is born out by this album.


A little research tells me that he released his debut single, The Blowers Daughter in 2002 and this is the Irish singer-songwriter's debut album which followed soon after. Rice writes from the heart, a style reminiscent of David Gray in recent times, but carrying on a thread that weaves back in time to Jeff Buckley, Bob Dylan and beyond.

It is an emotional collection of songs, dripping with experience and that heart on the sleeve honesty that is so rare these days. As if to emphasise the importance of the songs, there is a fairly minimal approach to the instrumentation used here. When you buy this album you get Damien Rice, his songs and very little else. It does what it says on the tin, a rare quality in this age of over-production and the domination of studio trickery over raw talent, and talent this man has. It's not an album that requires a track by track break down as the songs seem to form part of a whole overall feeling, but some tracks do sum up the album well.

To start with The Cannonball, the single that brought Rice to the attention of the uninitiated, me included: if you like this then the album is for you. The song is totally reliant on guitar and vocals, and the words are some of the finest I have read in a long time. His voice has a unique quality, not perfect, but honest and with that slightly cracked and real feeling that matches the emotion of the songs. This is, as is all of the songs included here, a lesson in songwriting. The guitar mixes lead riffs and picked melodies but what stands out is the honest emotion of the words.

In similar vein, The Blowers Daughter. Backed up by the brooding tones of a cello, rising and falling against the words, this is a love song without the clichés of modern fashion, personal and intimate.

No matter what Rice was trying to capture when penning this collection, it is a set of songs that anyone can relate to, the loves and losses that we have all been through. A female vocal provides the gentle counterpoint to Rice's voice, and the stark passages only serve to reinforce the 'less is more' attitude of the album.

Whereas many artists would resort to adding more and more layers to cover the embarrassing silences of their songs, Rice positively languishes in these quiet moments.

Amie also sums up the qualities of this album, all string section and guitar; you cannot help but be carried along by the soft waves of music and the emotional quality of the theme. In the hands of a lesser being these songs could begin to sound derivative but a tribute to the artist is that originality is maintained throughout. The use of instruments, the time signatures used and, most of all, the use of light and dark, the spaces in the music, the very talent of the songwriter, show the originality.

It is an album of minimal beauty; it's about knowing when not to play as much as when and what to play. There are a range of emotions portrayed here, bitter-sweet regrets to full-on, undiluted love. It is an album of honesty and truth and a tribute to a fantastic songwriter and tunesmith.

Even if this does not sound like your normal taste in music, I would urge everyone to at least give it one listening; it certainly won me over by about the third song. I look forward to more from this brave new talent, he will, I hope, be releasing quality albums for years to come.