Album of amiable, home recordings of old and new songs released to mark a significant birthday.
At the end of 2020, Anton O’Donnell won Americana UK’s inaugural Twang Factor, a series which provides a showcase for some of the best new and emerging artists around. Not having released anything since 2021 and with a full length studio debut being released later in 2023, O’Donnoll wanted to get some music out. O’Donnoll recently turned forty and to celebrate the fact he’s put out an album of home recordings of old and new songs. O’Donnell’s original plan was to release 40 tracks in honour of this milestone; however, having broken some ribs in December 2022 down his local pub that plan had to be put on hold. ‘Forty’s The New Thirty’ comes in at just under 60 minutes and comprises 12 O’Donnell originals and one song written by Glaswegian singer-songwriter Philip Campbell.
The album kicks off with ‘California’, a tale of a woman chasing the American dream and the reality of it, ‘washing your Chanel dress in your motel sink’. The subject matter fits the sparse arrangement of just guitar and harmonica. The second track, ‘Cocaine Blues’, isn’t the song of the same name that Johnny Cash famously performed at his 1968 Folsom Prison concert. It features a full band as O’Donnoll eulogises, ‘She sits there pristine as snow, She whispers her name before she stakes her claim, Cocaine she’s all around my brain’. ‘Maps (How I Feel About You)’ was released by Phil Campbell as a single some 15 years ago. O‘Donnell’s version is stripped down compared to the original but his acoustic version works well.
‘Dreams Fade Under The Weight’ features some great lead guitar and backing vocals. ‘My Favourite Song’ stands out in being the sole piano led track on the record. It’s a slower number about a ‘performer singing with truth in their voice’ and the connection between an artist and a fan at a concert. The album finishes with ‘We Sang Amazing Grace’. It ends the album on a sombre and moving note, ‘Amazing grace we sang as we laid you down, One last salute to the lovers the lost and found, Amazing grace we sang as we laid you down, The world kept spinning, But the lilies died, And your heart sung no more ’. For fans of O’Donnell this record showcases some new, sparser versions of old favourites, as well as some new songs. For those not familiar with O’Donnell, this collection provides a good starting point and a useful overview of his oeuvre.