Irish artist of many talents with an uneven album of country infused pop/rock
Paul J Bolger is clearly a very talented man. His credits as an animator include work on Shaun the Sheep and Wallace and Gromit and he has lent his writing, drawing, directing and design skills to numerous films, books and graphic novels. If that wasn’t enough this Waterford resident is also a songwriter and, following a 2018 EP and an eponymously titled 2020 debut, Bolger has now released ‘Hard Truth’. This second album is, in the artist’s own words, an “audacious guitar led shout.” With an acoustic guitar riff that screams George Michael’s ‘Faith’ and a vocal that is a ringer for Lyle Lovett ‘The Start of It’ is a great and highly promising opener. It is one of four songs on the album from that 2018 EP that have been remixed and remastered and the first to feature the wonderful vocals of Della Mannion. The next track ‘Godforsaken’ continues in a similar vein with its twangy guitar supporting the impression that if this is a guitar led shout then this is a voice containing more than a hint of country. At only 2minutes and 30seconds it is a short but sweet slice of country rock/pop. ‘She Love Shine’ is a very radio friendly addition to this direction of travel.
The album takes an abrupt turn with ‘Testify’ which is the big, guitar driven rocker that had been promised but, in the context of the album as a whole, stands out for the wrong reasons. It is generic, throwaway rock and brings doubt to early optimism about the album. This is a shame as there is much to admire elsewhere.
Although the album is compromised by tracks that sound just too formulaic and pop/rocky, when Bolger brings something a little less predictable to proceedings as in ‘Lady Love & The Cavalier’ or ‘Believe You Me,’ both contemplative and subdued in their own way, then the quality rating rises accordingly. With such a mix of songs the album struggles to allow an overall assessment of its worth. The album contains undoubted highlights, never more so than those opening couple of songs when thoughts of Lovett bring a promise that, unfortunately, never quite materialises. With that caveat, there is enough good stuff here to warrant giving The Talented Mr Bolger a listen.