Each time I discover a talented Irish artist who is bringing their music to America it's like unwrapping a Christmas present.
I admire the packaging, hope that there's something good inside, tear open the CD track by track and revel in the wonderful feeling of hearing something for the first time.
This week, the discovery was the shiny new CD from the Dublin-born artist, Colm O'Brien.
Currently living in Boston, O'Brien sings from the depths of his soul with a memorable rasp in his voice and serious knack for bringing traditional songs to life and using his strong Celtic roots to inspire great songwriting.
The album, Back to Work?, is the second solo album from O'Brien, a man who has Irish music in his heart and in his blood.
In a recent conversation with O'Brien he spoke of his family's deep musical heritage - a pipe playing father, a granny who was a championship fiddler, and a mother that sang like an angel. But although he had plenty of instruments at his fingertips as a child, there was one that hooked him.
"The draw of the guitar got me, he said. I always thought it was the perfect instrument because I could play any music that I liked, Irish music, rock and roll, blues". When I asked him who taught him to play the guitar he said, "Self-taught, I just picked up chords wherever I went" and then he laughed as he told me about the hours he spent hanging out in Dublin guitar shops as a kid waiting for chord strumming shoppers to show him some tricks.
His days in Dublin set Colm O'Brien on a musical journey that would eventually take him to the United States as a member of the five piece rock band, Fatal Flower.
He would later join up with the ballad group Hiring Fair, and Celtic Rock band The Prodigals, but his longing to record his favorite traditional ballads alongside his own original songs led O'Brien to set out on his own and record his first solo album "It Is What It Is" back in 2004, and the highly anticipated, recently released, follow-up "Back to Work?"
Our conversation revealed that O'Brien is quite proud of his most recent project - he had very clear idea of what he wanted it to sound like, spent a lot of time preparing the material, and then got in and out of the studio with fantastic results in just six days.
For O'Brien, beyond his talent and passion, the special ingredient for success is his song choice.
"These are all songs that get me going", he said. "The album is a reaction to what is going on economically and socially here and around the world. I needed to say something".
And he says a lot in his songs, about the plight of the undocumented Irish, about greed, and economic hardships, all with the fervor and enthusiasm of the great Irish balladeers that have come before him. Colm O'Brien is back to work for sure, in a big, big way.
To learn more about Colm O'Brien visit colmobrien.com and stay tuned for news of a NYC gig in the New Year.
“He says a lot in his songs, about the plight
of the undocumented Irish, about greed, and economic hardships, all with the fervor and enthusiasm of the great Irish balladeers that have come before him. Colm O'Brien is back to work for sure, in a big, big way.”
* My picks for the best Celtic Sounds around town this week: Padraig Allen at The Pig & Whistle in New York City on 12/6, "An Irish Christmas" with Mick Moloney and friends at The Leonard Theatre at Fordham Prep in The Bronx on 12/9, and Eileen Ivers at The Berrie Center at Ramapo College in Mahwah, NJ on 12/9.