The lyrics of so many songs are engraved in the minds and hearts of Irish music lovers all over the world. The familiar words and melodies, the family traditions surrounding the songs, and the sentimental value attached to them allow for universal recognition and love for songs like “The Fields of Athenry,” “Go Lassie Go” and “The Wild Rover,” to name a few. And so the Irish are known for sing-alongs and sessions that inspire participation from all who are lucky enough to have grown up learning the quintessential Irish songs we love so much.
As many Irish musicians pay tribute to their homeland by recording the traditional songs of Ireland, we must not ignore some of the other music coming out of Ireland, specifically the original songs that are recorded by talented and soulful Irish singer-songwriters. And while I’m a notorious sing-along starter, I also love to grab hold of an opportunity to shut the world out and listen closely to freshly crafted lyrics and melodies. Michael Brunnock, a County Meath man now living in New York City, gave me that opportunity this week when his latest album, “The Orchard,” landed in my mailbox.
After performing with various bands in Ireland in the 1990s, Brunnock began his solo career when he moved to New York City a decade ago. “The Orchard,” Brunnock’s third solo album, features his original songs with guest performances from Glen Hansard of the Swell Season, Julia Stone, Ari Hest and Joe Sumner. With 13 tracks in total, there are at least three of them that gave me that “oh man, this is my new favorite song” kind of feeling. The album opens with Circle, a track that nicely showcases Brunnock’s extraordinary voice. Five songs in he treats listeners to a guest performance by the Dublin born Academy-Award winning songwriter and vocalist Hansard with the most powerful song on the album “Untouchable.” I was delighted to hear Brunnock close out the album with, “Down By The Araglin,” a song that paints the picture of a harvest moon and the courtship of a fair young Irish woman, demonstrating that Brunnock’s work is undeniably informed by his Irish roots.
I won’t lie: after listening to the album three or four times in its entirety, I still can’t tell you with confidence what many of the songs are about. But I love the unpredictability of the lyrics and the opportunity for interpretation, and I can still say that Brunnock definitely has a way with words. In the midst of some of his most intricate lyrics he sings lines like “I believe in love” and “inspiration is free”, and who could argue with sentiments like those. Especially when they come from such a captivating voice and an Irish soul.
The Orchard is due out on Araglin records in early March, and you can look out for Brunner at The Irish Arts Center on March 23 where he’ll be performing as part of the new “SongLives” series which will feature Irish songwriters in an acoustic setting.
For some Celtic Sounds around town this week pencil in an evening with Cherish The Ladies at The Pollak Theater in NJ on 2/10 and at City Winery in NYC on 2/12, Shilelagh Law at Ulysses in NYC on 2/11, and Andreas Durkin at Katie’s Cottage in Yonkers on 2/12.