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Monday 24 June 2024

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All Of This Is Chance – Lisa O’Neill

Jul 24, 2023

Idiosyncratic voices can bewilder the casual music fan, but they often benefit from being recognisable and characterful. Just ask fans of Tom Waits or, even Bob Dylan. Irish folk singer Lisa O’Neill has such a voice and she’s also been garnering praise from all corners for its power to mesmerise the listener. Most notably when her version of Dylan’s ‘All The Tired Horses’ was put to use on the closing scene of the TV series, Peaky Blinders.

The musical arrangements on the eight tracks of O’Neill’s album ‘All Of This Is Chance’ provide shimmering tones that are a perfect setting for her distinctive voice. It’s an atmosphere largely created by the delicate matching of drones with the harder edges of banjo, fiddle and piano that sit alongside her vocal. The instrumentation also includes harmonium, hammer dulcimer, saw and glockenspiel along with more typical acoustic folk instruments. That sounds like it could get messy in terms of a listening experience but the arrangements and production on this record are of the highest quality.


The lyrical themes are typical of folk music in terms of juxtaposing the natural world against life, love and death. Often, there’s a visceral depth to their meaning as in the epic title track which opens the album. Taking its inspiration and a few lines from a poem by Patrick Kavanagh called ‘The Great Hunger’, the song explores the role of chance in our lives versus our agency to affect change in what happens. Put simply, it’s an example of the album’s ability to place the listener in reflective mood. Elsewhere, the use of the natural world, especially birds, adds a lightness to the songs. Best displayed on ‘Birdy From Another Realm’ with its contrasting references to the peacock and cuckoo. This mix of light and shade ensures an overall captivating depth that means it’s a record that gives generously over a few listens. It is, what some call, a ‘grower’.

Amongst the many, some of the standout moments include ‘Old Note’ with its closing use of an ethereal child’s voice from the past, ‘If I Was A Painter’, ‘Silver Seed’, and the lullaby, ‘Goodbye World’ which closes the album. Be warned, this is not the typical tourist take on Irish music with up tempo rhythms. Its dreamy and evocative feel carries more depth and meaning for the listener. Indeed, it’s fair to say that ‘All Of This Is Chance’ is not only Lisa O’Neill’s best album to date but one that will undoubtedly expand her fanbase.

Steve Henderson

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