Gary O’Neill is a singer-songwriter from Kilkenny, often seen in Dublin venues with just his voice and his guitar. For his debut EP, Gracefully With Haste, Gary teamed up with a full band to create a truly powerful soundscape, one that breathes a second, different life into the already fantastic songs that Gary plays solo.
Opening with the guitar intro of current single, Vienna, we’re thrust into Gary’s recent travels and loves. For an introductory song, it works perfectly. The band are present, but not overbearing. The original acoustic song is still noticeable, so fans of the old Gary O’Neill are eased into his new full sound. As a lyricist, Gary is making me fall in love with Vienna, travel and whoever he is singing about. He keeps his lines and rhymes simple and humble, just like the man himself.
Treasure Chest sees a high octane intro, complete with saxophone, falling away to leave Gary singing alone with his guitar. The band are great, but there’s no denying the true talent that exudes from Gary on his own. His finger picking is impeccable, complemented by a subtle lead riff chirping in from Geoff Warner-Clayton, an impressive singer-songwriter in his own right. The longest song on the EP at nearly 6 minutes, it doesn’t feel long. This is the only one that I couldn’t see working as a solo acoustic song, but with the band keeping the ear interested, it is one of many highlights on the EP.
The mellow One Last Dance is a beautiful piece of music, with Gary singing of love lost. But the following track, If You Don’t Mind, is a real masterpiece. Starting with a crescendo not unlike an old Curtis Mayfield or James Brown track, this song is a perfect example of Gary O’Neill as an artist. The song can’t be pinned to one genre. The acoustic guitars are prominent, as are the saxophones and the grooving drums. Gary’s soulful voice dances along with electric guitars while organ runs around them.
The EP then gives way to another lull, in the shape of In Search Of Something New. It wastes no time jumping in, with vocals starting almost instantly. It builds gradually and gradually, with another instrument coming in piece by piece, until the full drum kit comes in towards the end, right after an acoustic guitar break. The song proceeds with the whole band going full force, Gary’s voice working overtime. Everything falls away and he serenades us with his powerful voice and guitar playing before soothing away.
The final track on Gracefully With Haste is Hannah & The Cobblestones. A ballad of sorts, Gary sings about a girl lost, urging her to take chances and find her way to him. It’s a raw song, and the production is reflected in this. The song consists of nothing more than Gary’s voice and a harmony, his guitar and low piano. To overload this song would be a crime, and thankfully, it wasn’t committed. The stripped back feel is warm, it lets us hear these heart-wrenching lyrics. An excellent end to an excellent EP.
Gary O’Neill is launching the EP in the Dublin Unitarian Church, Friday June 12th. Tickets are still available from Eventbrite.