Dubliner Gavin Glass’s latest CD “Sunday Songs” has received glowing reviews in Ireland.
By Colleen Taylor
By now, the popularity of American country music in Ireland, particularly in the West, is well established, but lately, I’ve become more aware of the reciprocal creative output resultant from this Irish fandom, particularly within the past five years. Some of Ireland’s best musicians—names like Nathan Carter, Ronan Keating and Mary Duff—are producing great country and Americana music that can hold its own with our homegrown Southern talent. Gavin Glass is yet another example. The American musical influence gives panache and distinction to Glass’s sound, one that provides for an easy-going, beautiful listening experience. Glass has recently released his album “Sunday Songs,” a collection that impels several listens. “Sunday Songs” is not the typical country music cover album: it is something both Irish and American, and all Glass’s own.
Glass is Irish country music’s Dublin constituent. A Dubliner himself, he represents the Eirecana (Irish Americana) genre across the city—a regular at its best music venues, such as Whelan’s, where he launched his new album at the end of last month. The album subsequently received glowing reviews from the Irish Times and fans alike. When he’s not performing solo, Glass also plays with Lisa Hannigan’s band or works as a music producer. But Glass’s time focused on songwriting is his time best spent. This is a musician who knows how to marry poetry with notes.
While his earlier albums, particularly “Myna Birds” (2010), are accomplishments in their own right, this latest and fourth album is his best yet. “Sunday Songs” is his most nostalgic, most emotive and most evocative. Listening to this album is like living in a Western film. Glass makes use of old-time instruments like the steel guitar and classic violin, all the while maintaining a modern interpretive flare. The historical steel guitar, for instance, is complimented by the electric, by moments of a more indie blend of instruments, such as in the more modernized rock song, “Light Heart.” On the other hand, the exquisite title track evokes that quintessentially country swaying rhythm that one associates exclusively with a horse and a cowboy. For me, one of the best on the album is “Better Left Alone.” This song is country through and through. While it exemplifies all of Glass’s own unique interpretation, it nonetheless speaks to the legacy of the country-music tradition throughout the past century. Each of the eight songs achieves a sound that is simultaneously melancholic and carefree, creating a myriad of cultural associations.
So where does the Irish come in? Aside from Glass’s own personal background, it might not be readily identifiable in this strictly Eirecana, country music album. But in my opinion, there is something definitively Irish in the lyrics. “Rise and Fall” starts out with the simple pairing of Glass’s mournful vocals and piano: “Look at us now /still running round/ From all that we were and all that we know.” The tenor of his voice speaks to a culture of balladeers and sad love songs. If you wanted to, you could make an argument for the album’s Irish lineage in the lyrics he writes and the style in which he sings them.
All in all, Gavin Glass proves that Ireland does far more than listen to good American country music. It creates it too. The Eirecana and country-music genres are lucky to have an advocate like Glass. His music is sophisticated and timeless. One cannot listen to “Sunday Songs” without being moved, without falling into reverie. Check Gavin Glass out on Spotify or Facebook.
Colleen Taylor is the Music Notes columnist for the Irish Echo.