James O’Connor is an Irish Folk singer/songwriter. Brought up with a musical upbringing, O’Connor grew up in a council estate in Irish midlands. By the age of 13, he was playing the guitar and began his songwriting endeavours, the latter helping him channel his raw emotions during the difficult time in his teenage years.
In his professional career, O’Connor has toured across Ireland and the UK. He has also opened for artists such as The Walls, Steve Wickham, Mick Flannery, The 4 of Us and many more. He has a number of festival performances under his belt with shows at Electric Picnic, Lissadell Fringe, Helium Festival, the Westport Bluegrass festival and Fortstock.
James O’Connor has also collaborated with other artists, such examples include ‘After Hours’ (2009) with Audrey Trainor James, and ‘Mr Fake’ (2011), which reached #22 in the Irish Top 50 singles chart. In 2014, O’Connor collaborated with Andy Irvine for ‘Warmth of Smile’, a charity single in aid of the Midlands Simon Community.
July 3rd 2020 saw O’Connor release an album titled “A Cluster of Narratives”. The album explores various themes surrounding the ups and downs of the human experience, whilst blending sounds of folk and rock together.
O’Connor’s album kicks off with “We Are The Stories”. The track begins with a great chord progression, and some synth which adds a nice texture to this track. The song has an incredible wall of sound to it. The drums are perfectly mixed in this, indeed the whole track is a very pleasant listening experience. As the track begins to end, you know this is not indie as you thought it was.
Up next is “A Cluster of Narratives”. This is where you begin to truly hear, what is becoming clearer second by second, James O’Connor’s mission of blending rock and folk come to completion. The album’s titular track is what some Indie artists try to create but O’Connor has nailed it. The production on this is phenomenal, so many elements happening that bring together such an epic sound.
“A Day Away From Madness” follows. The bass is driving, yet grooving. Locked right in with the drums. This is pretty tight. The timing is spot on here, just when you’re wondering “where is this going?” it hits you with killer synth. “A Day Away From Madness” is a funky rollercoaster. A track that Men Without Hats wish they wrote, one that James O’Connor completely owns.
Track four is “Greatest Escape”. Can’t get enough of this synth? We can’t either! James’ vocals are absolutely shining here over a great chord progression. Starts off strong, gets stronger. Every section of this track gives us moments that are captivating, no doubt. This is a kinda catchy tune, we can see this one getting good airplay in the future (fingers crossed!).
Following this comes “Good Ol’ Days”. The track presents a significant sonic innovation of combining rock, pop and folk together. Again, amazing production has taken place and at this point it should be obvious to anyone listening that, as each of these tracks pass, James O’Connor is raising the bar for Indie. Take note.
As “Dark Side of The Rover” starts, it doesn’t go where you think it does. We were half-expecting a “Perfect Strangers” vibe to kick off, but where it winds up is sweet. O’Connor’s vocals are soft, but yet still powerful. Parts here and there that kick off do so with great effect, especially the bridge. The tone of the guitar is excellent, a highlight of this track for sure. The only thing that sticks out for us is the drums, the beat just doesn’t feel right. Other than that, it’s a very solid track.
Track seven is “Average City Street”. It begins with a quick fade-in, then the guitar plays a superb chord progression and James O’Connor hits you with strong vocals. Marvellous. “Average City Street” is choc full of an impressive array of sonic textures paint a clear picture for all to enjoy. A good build up throughout, this track never misses a moment.
“Working Class Waltz” is up next. As true as any waltz in a 3/4 standard, this is indeed a waltz. The track is definitely higher on the folk ratio than the others here, but it presents us with a very clear picture of what the song is about. A little nod to “Comfortably Numb” with the lyrics, which is a nice touch. The way that James O’Connor sings is in a much lower range than previous tracks. This works extremely well with the theme and overall vibe of the track, demonstrating his impressive vocal abilities.
As “Victims” begins, it’s driving. This is a very meaningful and powerful tune. As we listen we really feel the power within this tune. “Victims” presents O’Connor’s songwriting ability. To tell a story without it being drawn out or too “preachy”. James O’Connor has clearly found his “goldilocks” on the whole, this track is the sonic proof.
“Why Did She Stay?” is another powerful tune. Not just with the lyrical themes, but every element as this tune begins to kick off. Vocal layers, sweet synths and a driving beat – what more could you ask for? It takes serious talent to create not just a tune like this, but also write lyrics as profound as this.
The final track of the album “Ask for Help” begins perfectly, it builds up and takes off. A song full of hope and optimism. The overall composition is, again, fantastic. James’ vocals shine through on this track, his lyrics don’t mess about either. “Ask For Help” is a good ending to this fantastic album.
Overall, “A Cluster of Narratives” is one of the best albums we’ve heard in a long time. James O’Connor nails the fusion between rock, pop and folk. O’Connor’s musical journey has provided the world with an innovative album. The album is exquisitely produced, our only qualm with it is the drums on “Dark Side of The Rover” but that’s literally it. We highly recommend giving this album a spin, or ten. Bravo, James O’Connor.