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The arrival of Tony Reidy’s latest album, A Rough Shot of Lipstick (see below) was a timely reminder of the existence of its predecessor. Now this site doesn’t make a habit of reviewing singer-songwriters, but (as in the case of Pierce Turner) Tony’s output is a worthy exception,
For those unfamiliar with Tony’s name he hails from County Mayo and, as the cover scan opposite reveals, is of a certain vintage. However, that last term is best interpreted as equivalent to the categorization of wine for, as The Coldest Day in Winter admirably demonstrates, Tony’s work is well worth hoarding away and savouring at the perfect moment.
This album of eleven self-composed songs not only reveals a voice redolent of both J.J. Cale and Michael Chapman, but a penchant for arrangements which recalls the kind of albums released by the Harvest label more than thirty years ago and, more particularly, the more whimsical recordings of Kevin Ayers (not least in the presence of Kevin Walsh’s clarinet on Draiodoir Dubh and Brian Lennon’s elegiac low whistle on Kitonga).
However, such redolence should not be interpreted as the result of a writer lost in a time warp. Indeed, as the album’s title song amply reveals in its tale of a farmer forced to abandon the land in order to ‘wear a suit’ and ‘sit in a chair and stare at a screen’. Equally, Black Pudding Music concerns a man who dreams of crooning like Andy Williams while working in a paint shop, but finds his preference for ‘Bossanova beats’ doesn’t grab the attention of local audiences keen to hear some ‘diddly eye’. Indeed this album is lush with musical references – The Mountainy Man manages to mention sean-nós, Springsteen and Waits – but its overall feel is introspective (particularly Woman Sitting in a Dark Café).
All the songs are in English with the exception of Cúl an Tí (‘The Back of the House’), whose lyrics are provided by Seán Ó Riordan. Backing comes predominantly from members of the band Céide with the addition of David Munnelly on keyboards and accordion.
Overall, ‘lyrical’ is the term which first springs to mind on hearing The Coldest Day in Winter and, though its mood is often sombre, it is an album whose topography somehow seems to match Mayo’s lush but oft times bleak landscape.
Such influence is easily apparent on the album’s second track, I’m a Mayo Man, which carries contextual similarities to Reidy’s earlier work, but becomes a kind of ‘swamp thang’ workout thanks to Séamie’s Bayou setting and wild juxtaposition of harmonica and fiddles.
That said, this new album is still underpinned by heartfelt moments of existential angst (and nobody in Ireland writes these better than Reidy), such as the island emigration song Island Boys or the narrator’s inability to get a Job as a Clown despite possessing a unicycle and a pair of stilts.
Tony also reveals himself as a master of the anti-love song, not least on Fool for You whose subject expresses all manner of job options he might undertake to prove his adoration. However, the most telling song is If This Is Progress which presents a catechism of the right things to do made redundant ‘in a nation which has nothing to say’, a visceral assessment of modern Ireland (or modern anywhere else for that matter).
Musically, A Rough Shot of Lipstick is far superior to its forbear, thanks to Séamie, engineer Paul Gurney (who provides gloriously swaying accordion on the title track) and Kevin Doherty’s absolutely perfect presence on the double bass.
These reviews were written by Geoff Wallis on the 19th October, 2006, specifically for The Irish Music Review.
Tony’s website is www.tonyreidy.net.