Album Review: David Rooney, Bound Together

Stunning debut from Hot Press illustrator

That David Rooney is a phenomenally talented artist will come as no surprise to anyone familiar with his consistently brilliant illustrations for this publication over the last three decades. He’s left it until his early fifties to write and record his debut album – produced by Declan O’Rourke and encouraged by Glen Hansard – but these ten soulful songs demonstrate that the native Galwegian is a seriously gifted singer-songwriter, too.  

The great conductor Leopold Stokowski once observed that, “A painter paints pictures on canvas. But musicians paint their pictures on silence.” Rooney assembled a fine cast of alchemical players to help him paint these pictures on silence. Drummer Conor Guilfoyle, bassist Baz Rycraft, and pianist Jay Wilson sound as though they’re improvising half the time. Palestinian vocalist Ruba Shamshoum adds an exotic touch. There’s no electric guitar, just Rooney’s mellow acoustic, on these jazz, folk and country inspired songs.

Album opener ‘Madeline’, about a runaway who comes to a tragic end, sets the melancholic mood (“She had enough of trying/To please a mother filled with pain”). The jaunty ‘Moondust’ conjures up a San Fran in the 1960’s kind of mood (“Moonlight on your fingers/ Starlight in your eyes”). Benefitting from Shamshoum’s amazing backing vocals, ‘Rising’ is the most plaintive-sounding track here. Closer ‘Both Of Us Know’ is the greatest Irish love song I’ve heard in a very long time (“Both of us know/ love made us try/ No-one can see through another’s eyes”).

There isn’t a single track out of place and it all flows smoothly. Bound Together is a sublimely soulful piece of work that sounds comfortingly familiar, yet is still somehow totally fresh and unique.  

 

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