Friday, March 11, 2016

Byrne and Kelly's "Echoes" -- A Longtime Fan's Meanderings

You guys, I have good news. I have lots of good news.

First, my longtime favorite musical duo Byrne and Kelly have released their latest album, Echoes. Growing from their previous standby of adapting favorite tunes, Neil Byrne and Ryan Kelly have dived into the pool of their own songwriting, along with bandmembers Nicole Hudson and Peter Sheridan, to release an album of nine original songs with the added gift of one fan-favorite Irish tune. Their blend is getting stronger and they're beginning to really feel out, explore, and test the unique gifts and strengths that they each bring to the table.

Second, I am way less grumpy than the last time I wrote about an album, so yay!

You can't listen to Echoes without knowing where Byrne and Kelly come from, with several tracks that reflect on Ireland as homeland and give tribute to the places that mean something to them. Home from Home is the last track on the album, but was originally released as a single some months ago. It's a great song with a driving beat, catchy tune, and well-blended harmonies. Belfast opens the album with just about the most beautiful guitar solo you'll hear. Along with Nicole's violin later in the song, the instrumentals are lovely. The track as a whole is pleasing to listen to... but that's almost its downfall. You almost wish there was the teensiest bit more meat to it.

Land of a Thousand Dreams is one my favorites on the album. It begins with Ryan's haunting opening and builds in intensity. Neil's harmony in the second verse gives the song a surprising darkness. Varying cadences keep the song interesting, but the driving acapella bridge is by far my favorite part of the track. I'd happily listen to it over and over. Meeting of the Waters is the song that I have really tried to like... but can't get into. It's pretty and I like the Gaelic in the background, but I just can't seem to connect with it.

Tales of love and tragedy fill out the album in tunes that are both achingly lovely and incredibly fun. Come Away has to be my #1 favorite song. A moving story of regret, Ryan sings lead evocatively and leaves you so very sad. The combination of instrumentation is perfect in its tenderness and the harmony that pours forth in the second verse is beautiful. The Old Tweed Coat is an achingly sweet song of lifetime love that is a perfect match for Neil's smooth voice.  Seamus Brett's piano is truly lovely and lends to the beauty of the song. It's taken a little bit to grow on me, but I think it is.

Putting some fire into the album, Step It Out Mary is the one song on the album that isn't a Byrne and Kelly original, but has met with much fan enthusiasm when performed at B&K shows in the past. It's a fun upbeat piece that highlights both Neil and Ryan's strong voices. I especially love the increasing layers to the chorus as the song progresses. The Rag Man is truly awesome.  The music is intense and fun. You just have to hear it - there is so much to it! The driving beat is stellar, the story is great, and it's a perfect vehicle for Ryan's strengths.

The Garden is a powerful and poignant piece, headlined by Neil, reflecting on our childhood pasts. It has great harmony in the chorus and sets your feet tapping. Finally, Keep It Movin' is a light clappy song that's a lot of fun. Fans will no doubt enjoy listening for the tour stops that they might have been at!

It's a good album! It's always a little nerve-racking when your favorite artists do something new - will you still like it? Will you still like them? But, I think that, while perhaps a little different, it's a good direction for Byrne and Kelly and one I'm looking forward to walking with them!


2 comments:

  1. Glad you're less grumpy. lol Loving this new one. I think I've loved everything... not necessarily each line, but the progression of where they started to where they are.

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  2. Somehow I haven't ordered this, yet. I remember these songs from the last time they played in LA, and I like them! Off to order now :D

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