A Review of the Chris O'Brien CD

by Chris O'Brien

Copyright 2007
Highway 26 Music

This review is written by Kevin McCarthy, 3/08
Kevin and Maxine's Celtic & Folk Music CD Reviews
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Call this a concept album featuring songs orbiting around relationships, the basic human two-step that seems oh so easy during good times but a veritable Rubik's cube on the flip side. 'Un-coupling' is the more appropriate label for the subject matter of this collection of songs

Chris O'Brien metaphorically employs a lighthouse, fire and other objects here but this offering is truly moths to flames -- people mismatched with one another, writ large, human bonds, if ever solid, now tentative or ruptured, the remnants of the battlefield littered with characters unable or unwilling to cross the now great divide.

The opening cut, "Rosa," is best dramatized by these lines: "she is lightning, I am thunder, a moment behind." Not that opposites cannot unite or seemingly intractable differences never become at least tentatively sutured but who we are as individuals, where we are as a state of being and what we somehow perceive as our salvation all filter into the choices we make, both the good and, let's say, the less well chosen. Intriguingly, there are lines contained in "Rosa" that thematically bring to mind Bruce Springsteen's elegiac "Thunder Road" -- yet from a different perspective.

The title cut, "Lighthouse," provides a similar image to the earlier lightning/thunder pairing. O'Brien sings:
"...You gave me love
But never hope
I am a raging fire
Baby, you are smoke..."

This is another cut featuring incomplete closure, strings still attached wound around the best and worst of intentions..

In the jigsaw puzzle of what is seemingly the final communication between a couple, this scene in "Blue Skies," best depicts the moment:
"...Every word comes flying right
Out of my mouth
Starts running
My head has fallen behind
And I've been dodging your glances
Trying to find forgiveness
Befere I leave it behind..."

Mixed up, unsure of what really is the right thing to do next flows out of "Cigarettes and Rain" followed by the melancholy-drenched "Black Leather Boots."

Doing one's best to rise yet again like the phoenix is the synopsis of "Hey Love" with the ending offering a beaten but not broken notion of hope. "Apartment #4," delivered with pained fervor, finds one partner in an almost mystical state of mind, determined to hang on if not hang in..

The rhythmic and catchy "Ocean Stone" lyrically brings to mind Bob Dylan's "Love Minus Zero/No Limit" in particular. This song is also the exclusively upbeat offering of the collection.

"Another Day" is perplexingly oblique while "Melissa" closes out the release with this quartet of memorable opening lines:
"...All signs
pointing west,
I leave with nothing
I'd have settled for less..."

Thematically, O'Brien's work is as if Dylan had tendered "Don't Think Twice, It's All Right," "It Ain't Me Babe," "Most Likely You Go Your Way And I'll Go Mine," "One Too Many Mornings," "She Belongs To Me" and "You're Gonna Make Me Lonesome When You Go" and so on, all on one release. The material itself here is not generally heartening unless one is a glutton for anguish but it is the quality of the overall work that is truly elevating. O'Brien is engagingly concise with his prose, not needing multisyllables to paint his haunting portraits. His delivery is consummate, so much so that it seems others will have quite the task in performing any future covers. The instrumentation is spare but certainly twines with the words and aids in engendering the mood.

This is an accomplished CD regardless of it being Chris O'Brien's debut.

Track List:

All songs written by Chris O'Brien.

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