Lyrically rich piano balladry on sophomore album from Irish songwriter.
In something of a departure from 2019’s ‘Ivory Towers’ and his 2016 debut ‘Dreamcatcher’, Jack O’Rourke’s latest release, ‘Wild Place‘, finds him almost exclusively leading songs from behind his piano: his warm voice and the occasional violin offering sparing, well-spaced accompaniment. While his previous records have mixed piano led ballads with full band pop-rock, here we find O’Rourke in a sombre mood making exclusive use of stripped-down arrangements to present a record of loss and reflection.
Focusing on the links between literature and nature, O’Rourke writes about inspiration, the wildness of love, as well as healing from pain and grief. Recorded in Triskel Christchurch in Cork, Ireland, the grand piano and O’Rourke’s distinctive vocal are prominent throughout. The result is a spacious presentation of soulful and folk-inspired songs, evoking musical touchstones such as Kate and Anna McGarrigle, Nick Cave and Paul Brady. While sonically it rarely ventures into territory most would regard as ‘Americana’, there are nods here to Tom Waits (especially on ‘Coffee Song’), while John Prine’s untimely passing in April 2020 looms large O’Rourke’s in rear-view mirror.
Expansive to the point of being almost cinematic, ‘Wild Place‘ provides a soundtrack to a year of grief and loss which many may take comfort from.