- 09 Apr 21
Irish singer-songwriter returns with Paul Weller-produced seventh album.
At a time of dazzling diversity in Irish music, some commentators have loudly proclaimed the death of the emotional-man-and-his-guitar acts that once dominated the homegrown sound. But there are some talents too immense to be tied to trends or scenes – as Declan O’Rourke’s new album, Arrivals, attests.
With thoughtful handling from Paul Weller in the producer’s chair, Arrivals is a remarkably organic, unflashy affair, stripping the Irish singer-songwriter’s acoustic-centred approach down to its rawest roots. His voice, more lived-in and resonant than ever, has become a profound vehicle for expressing life experiences of both major and minor significance – relating stories of everyday folk, from e-cigarette-smoking tradesmen cooking Lidl steaks, to weekend drug habits; as well as epic tales of courage, like that of Syrian refugee-turned-Olympian Yusra Mardini. Even when singing about a conversation between Greek gods (‘Zeus and Apollo’), it’s the humanity at the heart of the father-and-son interaction that sparks an instant connection.
Elsewhere, he embraces his inner folk revivalist for protest song ‘Have You Not Heard The War Is Over’; channels the ghost of Luke Kelly on ‘Convict Ways’; and closes the album with the unexpectedly jazz-flavoured ‘This Thing That We Share’, combining the mystique of Nat King Cole and Edith Piaf with the sensitive delivery of Chet Baker.
The tracks on Arrivals are connected by this emphasis on the power of simplicity, more than any clear overarching theme. While O’Rourke is by no means breaking the mould entirely, even songs that appear to rethread familiar territory gradually open up into something new with each listen. It’s not a sound accompanied by a modern sense of urgency or experimentation – but in its captivating exploration of human tenderness, it’s a direction that’s as relevant today as ever.