Declan Sinnott, a founding member of Horslips, is due to release his second solo album ‘Window on the World’ on the 15th of May this year. Having worked as musical director with Mary Black for thirteen years and acted as Christy Moore’s producer more recently, Sinnott is a veteran of the Irish music scene, and has been for the last fifty years. Now at 65, his second album bears the fruit of all that experience. All songs on this album are co-written with Owen O’Brien, who Sinnott describes as being ‘too smart to be a musician’.
Sinnott talks a lot about his process as a writer and musician. It’s as much about the journey for him as it is about the finished product. He prefers pithy truisms to elaborate phrasing, and in doing so cuts straight to the heart of the matter with style, aplomb and ease. He also likes to play all instruments on his solo albums – “I’m a nuts and bolts man. I enjoy the process. I come from jewellers and opticians so tinkering is in my blood”.
Blood, in fact is the central theme of ‘By the Sound of your Name’, which deals with the struggles of those who face unimaginable difficulty owing to the circumstances of their birth. In a similar vein, ‘Sleep out on the Beach’ endeavours to remind us of our roots, and warns us not to get too distracted by the minutiae of modern life.
The opening track on the album is ‘Walk With You’, which boasts a gently striding tempo and a decidedly Robert Plant-esque style (and with what sounds like Leonard Cohen’s backing singers). The inclusion of a creeping banjo line adds a nice flavour of Americana. Incidentally, Sinnott initially felt the banjo part to be ‘ungentlemanly’, but his fears are unfounded – this lady found it delightful.
The songs are characterised by their lyrical and thematic diversity. ‘Lightbox’ is about a camera (Sinnott is a photographer), which offers us a microscopic view on the world and in doing so, allows us to see the bigger picture. This is one of the standout tracks on the album. It is a toe-tapping earworm, which somehow manages to be timeless and modern simultaneously. ‘I Can Hear You’ tells the tale of grief and loss. This weighty subject matter is juxtaposed with a hook that could have been written by Burt Bacharach and a backing singer I first took to be Alison Krauss (it’s not, her name is Vickie Keating).
‘Time to Gather In’ offers gentle encouragement to aspiring musicians. He suggest that writing songs is akin to ‘gathering in’ your existing wisdom or life experiences and ‘make it mostly rhyme’. Like ‘Sleep out on the Beach’, this song is a yearning for simplicity in these increasingly nebulous times.
Warm and summery, ‘Window on the World’ sounds like an album you’ve had for years. It’s comforting and familiar but bolstered by toe-tapping melodies and thoughtful lyrics, which means there is something new to discover with each listen. His lyrical style is stark but painterly – by which I mean the sparseness of words is offset beautifully by the potency of the imagery evoked. Declan Sinnott begins his nationwide tour (The southern half of Ireland at least, no gigs north of Clare) on Wednesday 20th May, and will continue through the summer.