Michael J Sheehy is known to us. For anyone else used to the explosive blues uzi grooves of Miraculous Mule. Hold the depression and depravity and prepare for a different experience.
Release date: 2nd October 2020
Label: Lightning Archive
Format: CD / DL / vinyl
Somewhat removed from the vibrant bluster of Miraculous Mule (or even the psychedelic electronic duo United Sounds Of Joy) the new songs usher in a chilled and subtle side to Michael J Sheehy. What’s fuelled the desire to fly a different flag?
The prospect of fatherhood, an extended period of sobriety and the feelings of going through life changes. Probably what some people call maturing. The music is what he’s called “late night songs, quietly sung and played so as not to disturb my sleeping wife and child.”
He’s also been influenced in mulling over the philosophical writings of 14th Century mystic Julian of Norwich and Simone Weil. INteresting reference points for those in the dark as he tries to get an elusive grip of the phrase that gives the album its name. In the opening song (and opening line) you get a gentle precis of the album in five words. Tread Gently, Leave No Scar is a delicate piece that sets the scene perfectly.
His own reference points direct us toward Elvis (“always Elvis“) and the lighter moments of Suicide. Hey – even Springsteen covered Dream, Baby Dream. However, there’s more than a hint of echo and reverb on the guitar and a lyric and melody that you could imagine Richard Hawley crooning. Mention of “breaking lover’s hearts” hardly comes as a surprise.
Crafted and reflective, stark and minimal yet never underplayed, hopefully, I’m right in saying this is the sound of a man at ease with himself and his lot.
There’s very little that edges towards the remotely uptempo although Bless Your Gentle Litte Soul cuts a groove as he channels a Ferry-esque vocal. The leash is slightly loosened on Judas Hour. A hint of darkness and the remote threat of something electric creeping through looms ominously like a metallic grey cloud before passing by.
The glass half full optimism on We Laugh More Than We Cry might be more sunny day than late night. Guitar strings are gently caressed atop a the tempo of a drum machine as the ‘mature songwriter’ comes to the fore.
I Have To Live This Way leads with the line “I can’t remember what I came here for” echoing Dylan’s Not Dark Yet (a personal fave track from his Bobness) which he covered in lockdown. “All things shall be well,” he concedes as the ‘finger on the rim of the wine glass’ sound haunts Everything That Rises Must Converge. “Don’t be afraid, we will not be overcome.” I’m lulled into a feeling of safety and cocooned in warmth.
To come full circle, after experiencing one side of Michael J Sheehy, Distance Is The Soul Of Beauty is an unexpected surprise. The chance to express his softer side; it’s a simple phrase, but this is a lovely album.
Listen to I Have To Live This Way here: