Album reviews

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PhotoReview Snapshot: Carroll’s rhythmic arrangements and calming husky tones will accommodate most tastes as the album gently works through a plethora of genres, but it both requires and deserves your full attention. Best enjoyed on a long quiet car journey. 

The Cluas Verdict:  7 out of 10

Full Review: It’s a joy finding something new­­­­­ to mull over, although in this case ‘it’ is hardly new as singer/songwriter Marc Carroll has been carving out his musical career for over 20 years, albeit with modest commercial success. ‘In Silence’, a collection of his work to date,  both requires and deserves greater attention.

The collection begins with ‘The Boy Who Dreamed’, an instrumental of gentle inoffensive folk melodies before elevating into ‘Love Over Gold’ the second track and my first opportunity to sample Carroll’s striking vocals and confident delivery - its rousing, almost ethnic, sound discusses loss and faith, It’s heartfelt with lyrics that prompt repeated listening. The reverb, courtesy of the wah pedal effect, build the song well while blending comfortably with the acoustics.

‘In Silence’ is a grown-up album. Carroll is evidently well-seasoned on the life torments of love and loss and can articulate his experiences in a reflective, not bitter, way. Melodies on ‘No Time at All’ and ‘Against My Will’ are modest in their construction. This isn’t an album of intricate chords and complicated note arrangements.  Carroll’s guitar execution is not fuelled, but rather a delicate extension of himself to chaperone his vivid and enchanting storytelling. His stories are descriptive and animated “When I turned to the West, I felt instantly alone, kicked the mud off my boots and slept for days..”

Carroll comes across as a life observer rather than player. In ‘What’s Left of My Heart’, he is dejected yet refrains from anger: “She can ease my pain..And sadly I all I can do is stand beside, and bless the day I found her” His despondent but accepting attitude is refreshing.  “Its clear to see even natures singing in the minor key .. and will forever”  The acceptance of his environment is mature and real, and with a surprisingly upbeat melody and pace for such a melancholic track this is one of my favourites on the album.

‘No Time At All’ has a one minute instrumental introduction which sets the pace nicely on this soporific take on the passing of time. Uncomplicated chords again accompany Carroll’s dulcet tones and the harmonies simmer along nicely with lyrics that perfectly illustrate the singers tolerant attitude “Gotta keep movin ..don’t look back don’t hesitate”.

‘A Dark and Lucky Night’ combines electric and acoustic and lends itself to the power pop genre before building to an uplifting harmony buoyed by an undeniable gospel influence.  ‘A Way Back Out of Here’ meanwhile sounds like a Randy Travis tribute before progressing to combine string and percussion to layer and give a soundtrack quality.  It’s thin for the most part however and one of the weaker tracks for me.

Along with ‘Love Over Gold’, ‘Always’ is one of the most melodious songs on ‘In Silence’ .  Unlike ‘Love Over Gold’ however there are no distortions to bait you in. Its poppy harmonies achieve enough of a hook and go a long way to disguise some of the darker lyrics “Its not a beautiful world, its a cold..sad and lonely world”

In ‘Press On’ Carroll does little to deny a Dylan influence, while the stirring ‘Against My Will’ vocals fail to hide his Irish roots. An album of contradictions some might say, with the assimilation of so many varying impressions, but something tells me Carroll is keen to not be pigeon-holed, and has in fact a very international sound.

‘In Silence’ works through every genre from pop to Irish folk. Much is made of the Bob Dylan and Brian Wilson influences, and their subsequent championing of his cause has been well documented.  A gravel voice and an acoustic guitar, however, will eternally draw parallels with other songwriters.  There are a multitude of impressions in Carroll’s work, but with his candid approach to each performance, none of these influences could be construed as intentional or contrived.  Instead, let the depictive nature of his storytelling along with the simplicity of themes like love, loss and the less glamorous endurance, be the real testament to the maturity and substance in this talented song-writers music. 

Yvonne Moore

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