"Fifty for Electricity", Conor O'Sullivan's third self released album is a masterpiece of melancholy. The Cork based musician has a lovely lilting vocal delivery reminiscent of Ivan Drever and his equally well known son, Kris.
Conor's songs come across as slightly understated and are all the more endearing for it, they drag you in, provide you with the most comfy chair imaginable and you just never want to leave.
From the opener "Wrong Time" an expression of feelings about life and unfairness, "But it's never the right time, for me to speak my mind, I see things clearly now. It's always the wrong time, to spit out this long line, sinful thinking, yes I've been drinking". A waltz rhythm, mediative thoughts, acceptance not anger, "and it's easy to lose, when the winners a loser, a charlatan user, with whom you can't compete". And your head will still sway in time with the music and the backing vocals of Aine Whelan and the accordion of Christy Leahy.
"The Stream" is bleak and atmospheric. Soulful, mournful with a slow traditional arrangement we savour every single word, and we, the listener are encouraged to find our own meaning to the words. Are we talking God? Or a lost lover? We must decide.
"The Great Outdoors", offers a fuller sound, lifted by a tasteful electric slide guitar solo from O'Sullivan who also plays bouzouki, mandolin, banjo and acoustic guitar on this release. Martin Leahy adds drums, Martin Brunsden on Double Bass whilst the occasional fiddle comes courtesy of Brendan Clancy and Clare Sands. "Outdoors" is social commentary about those unfortunate enough to have no option but to live on the streets. Poignant lyrics such as "I've got no fire for company, just some old blankets wrapped around me. And a fistful of guilty people's change…. And I wondered if she'd ever think of me, when like the dog I am, I'm finally put to sleep". You believe the man had either walked the walk or has the rare gift of being honestly able to see through others eyes.
It's a brave man who offers thoughts on the impending death of a loved one. "Who And When And When" then approaches that cusp, steering always on the right side of the divide, never falling to maudlin.
A reflective look back ("Things Have Changed") at how life was when we grew up, how simpler the times then.. Pleasures of smoking discarded cigarettes, of chat over back yard walls. The pride of work, the value of money, the worth of self. Have things changed for the better? I think we all know the answer here.
"Through And Through" is an up tempo affair, with a chorus to sing along to. A parable about succession, about deceit, about making wrong decisions based on lies and then ultimately trying to put thing right in the time honoured way. Obvious air play material for an artist I first heard on the internet based radio show Black Dog Radio of the very knowledgeable Andy Inns.
"To The Night", a respite in the dark, a celebration of silence and solitude, you can imagine raising your glasses to a goodnight toast.
In "Gone And Done" realisation of a relationship on its last legs, seeing the signs, body language precluding the needs for words. Introspection laid bare without an ounce of bitterness. You don't feel sad, you accept, you know. You want the best for your other. It's warm and gentle, two words that also perfectly sum up Conor's voice.
The title for the album comes from the final track "What In The World". A glimpse into the loneliness of the retired and the difficult of living with little "why won't money grow on trees, it's thirty for food, some milk and the paper and fifty for electricity". A painting of a life enhanced by lyrics such as "… It's hard to keep your head up, when your days bear no fruit at all and if there's money in your pocket, it's on your breath.. by morn".
Conor's last thought as the album closes is "and I'm still none the wiser, are you a slave or close to being free. Oh and why is it always, the pricks and the clowns, who get to sit pretty and the top of the money….go round".
Powerful stuff. In Fifty For Electricity, Conor O'Sullivan has produced a recording that resonates and reflects our times. It's an album to savour, to cast shadowy lights on the darkness we sometimes fail to address.
Fifty For Electricity is a master of mellow melancholy that deserves the widest possible audience.
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