Eamon O’Leary – The Silver Sun: Album Review

Engaging… Unsettling… Otherworldly… An intimate collection from Lower East Side Manhattan and Eamon O’Leary.

Release Date:  26th February 2021

Label: Reveal Records

Formats: CD, Download

Originally from Dublin, Eamon O’Leary has, over the past ten years or so, carved quite a reputation for himself on the thriving folk scene of Lower East Side Manhattan.  He’s a poet, a guitarist, a singer and a songwriter with an enviable knack of being able to produce songs that merge the traditional with the contemporary. In his time he has appeared or collaborated with names such as Bonnie Prince Billy, Anais Mitchell and Beth Orton.  The Silver Sun is Eamon’s third album and follows 2018’s acclaimed All Souls collection.  As he was for his past efforts, Eamon is joined on The Silver Sun by multi-instrumentalist Benjamin Lazar Davis. As well making contributions on pump organ, mellotron, electric guitar, bass and piano, he also shares the production duties with Eamon.

Between them, Eamon and Benjamin have come up with quite a gem.  The sound is intimate and close-up. It almost feels as if Eamon and his small group of backing musicians are right there in the room with you. Eamon’s songs are given an edge that is engaging, often otherworldly and occasionally unsettling by Elise Leavy’s intricate harmonies and the spacy effects of Benjamin’s pump organ and mellotron.  It all adds up to a sound that is reassuringly familiar yet totally unique.

The pattern is set right from the outset with album opener The Living Stream.  A pump organ intro blossoms into a meandering song that introduces us to the harmonized voices gently picked acoustic guitar and mellotron flourishes that pervade the album.  You instinctively know that from here onwards, you’re in for an interesting and unconventional listening experience.  Bernadette continues the intimacy and harmony and the line, “I see you shining in the silver sun” provides the title for the album.

The unusual acoustic guitar/mellotron combination is particularly evident on No Birds Sing: a song which also displays Eamon’s gift for integrating the new with the traditional to optimum effect.  The result sounds like a classic Irish ballad a la She Moves Through The Fair.  Passersby is slow and thoughtful and the vocal harmonies, sung over a repeated guitar phrase give the song a real intensity.

An early album highlight is Sisters In Song. An enigmatic song with lyrics that take the form of a series of questions, directed at (it appears) a former friend or lover. The listener is left to solve the riddle and provide answers to the questions.  The song manages to capture both an intimate familiarity and a sense of not belonging that is quite perplexing.  On For Another, Eamon picks up his mandola, and makes a pretty nice sound with it too, as his and Elise’s voices intertwine to achieve a slightly disquieting effect.

Coal Black Road is another highlight. It’s yet another song with a modern/traditional feel . In fact it almost sounds like it could have come from the pen of Richard Thompson!  Eamon woke up one morning with the recurring lyric “Do you hear the bite? Do you hear the moan” in his head and constructed the song around it.  Once again, the song is given a spacy edge by some tasteful mellotron touches.

The penultimate track, No Eye, is perhaps the most traditional-sounding song on the album, due, in no small part, to the restrained fiddle, played by Eamon’s old friend Stephanie Coleman.  It’s a song with a strong Scottish feel that recalls Robert Burns’ Ae Fond Kiss.  Album closer, Houses And Lands is yet another highlight. An anthem with lyrics that reference getting things in order before moving on and a tune that etches its way into your brain.  Eamon and Elise sing a genuine duet with more tasteful harmonies to send us happily on our way.

 The Silver Sun was recorded at Trout Recording in Brooklyn in a single afternoon and the casual manner of recording comes over clearly. This is an album that sounds like a live performance made just for you, and it’s a lot of fun.

Watch a video of Eamon O’Leary and Elise Leavy performing Sister In Song, a song from the album, here:

Eamon O’Leary Online: Website/ Facebook / Twitter

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