Niall Thomas

If you are in Ireland or elsewhere in the British Isles, I hope you are still enjoying your Bank Holiday weekend. As for me, I sadly didn’t get to the Kilkenny Roots Festival this year (usually an annual pilgrimage). Still it means I got the chance to catch up on emails and listen to a few artists I have been long overdue to give a listen to. One of these is Niall Thomas.

Niall is a native of Dublin. Unfortunately there is not too much background information out there on Niall. He seems to have just burst on to the scene last year with this excellent d├ębut ‘breathe easy’. I presume that this is not the case. However as we can’t go into the background of Niall’s career to date, we have at least more time to discuss this superb collection of songs.

‘breath easy’ was recorded in a cottage in Co. Wicklow, produced by Karl Odlum with the assistance of musicians Aidan Courtney, Christophe Capewell, Kevin Murphy, Petra Odlozilikova, Martin McCann, and producer Karl contributing as well. Niall is also a multi-instrumentalist contributing everything from percussion to bouzouki and wurlitzer on the album. The album was mastered at Abbey Road by Steve Rooke. A glance at the instruments involved in the album (violin, cello, Wurlitzer) might suggest a low-key folk composition. To an extent that is true but on ‘breathe easy’ arrangements have taken these, sometimes over-applied instruments and have put them to exceptional use.

The album opens with ‘down this road before’. A slow burning almost smouldering composition on relationships. Defining the style of the music of Niall Thomas isn’t as easy after a few listens. He cites Neil Young, Gillian Welch, and John Martyn as influences with his musical style probably most resembling that of John Martyn. Yet there is clearly a drawing on styles from both sides of the Atlantic. The title track a gentle folk melody that you might associate with Crosby, Still and Nash.

Niall has a effortless vocal style. It’s evident in songs like ‘Hit and Run’ and the closing track ‘Be good, be true, be kind’. The album really soars on the more upbeat tracks. Both the lead single ‘Spillin’ Diamonds’ and the wonderful roots styled ‘Handle it’ are both great variations of the americana pop folk sound. One with a sense of optimism, one with a sense of anger. Both captivating tunes.

My favourite on the album is probably the guitar led ‘The Flickering’. With the moody cello, the song creates an affecting atmosphere. As the song hits the coda, the change in timing helps to add resonance to those repeated vocals.

Overall, a wonderful piece of work. Despite on paper, seeming to happily swim in one genre, ‘breathe easy’ nevertheless comes across as an eclectic mix of compositions. Not an easy job to do. Something that allows for repeated listening without dissipating the impact. A very enjoyable lp. Here’s hoping there’s more to come.

You can buy the album digitally through Bandcamp and the single ‘Spillin’ Diamonds’ through iTunes. Find out more about Niall on his Facebook page. Niall is due to play the Youbloom festival in June too.

Photo: facebook.com/niallthomas

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