In a recent webchat on The Guardian, Kevin Rowland was asked if there was anybody around who had caught his attention recently. He replied:
'When we appeared at Imagining Ireland at the Royal Festival Hall, there was a girl called Lisa O'Neill on the bill. And I thought she was absolutely brilliant, the best thing I've seen in ages. Totally pure artist.'
Being Kevin Rowland of course he's not wrong. O'Neill is just astonishing and has no small share of Rowland's own distinctive fearlessness about her. Just listen to her latest record Same Cloth or Not, from last year a collection she'd put together carefully over several more. Pretty much any track from it will convince you very quickly that you're in the presence of something very special. As long as you don't react negatively to her highly distinctive singing style. Many will.
If you stick with it, it's a very rewarding album. Immersed in memory, experience and place, the record takes you to somewhere very intimate and understood, you recognise what it's talking about immediately. O'Neill's vocal delivery is quite specific, an expression of her self, where she comes from and what has made her and what she feels about it all. As with all the best discoveries it makes you deeply grateful for and in awe of the magic properties of music.
She's only thirty one but her performance is so lived in and realised that she could be twice that. Rich and versed in centuries of Irish tradition and expression, the lyrics and voice are thick and expressive. You could be reading Joyce, Yeats, Beckett, O'Brien or Banville, so resonant is its poetry. The album is beyond category, an object of intense wonder. Thanks Kevin for the direction.