Here are two singer/songwriters from Ireland, Oisin Leech and Mark McCausland, now based in Liverpool. This is their fifth album, produced and recorded by Howe Gelb and Gabriel Sullivan (of Giant Sand fame) at the Dust and Stone Recording Studio in Tucson, Arizona. On the strength of their performance here, The Lost Brothers have secured their ascendancy in the music world. Within the words of their songs are hints, of their lives: “Another road, another town, another song/ another echo in the wind.” And what startles the listener, in the first song, is the reference to a particular place: “The Hotel St John.” The subtle, absorbing, captivating use of reference to a place. Where could that be? The Virgin Islands? Malta? Who knows?
So the collection moves on. ‘Where The Shadows Go’ is just one of the standout tracks. Oisin’s singing, and the lyrics with their rhymes, take you to a moment – “the sadness on the hill,” “the river cruel and mean,” the “fires down below” and “I miss you so…”
Then, in a song of rhymes and gentle contrasts, you are made to sit up and listen, for, in the fifth stanza “the black crow cries…” and there, hauntingly, is John Villa’s trumpet in the background controlling your reaction; as “the black crow dives/ through falling skies.” This is a rare, unforgettable moment in a song.
There are three tracks in the album, where Glen Hansard is a co-writer (think of his singing with Marketa Irglova in “Once”). ‘More Than I Can Comprehend’ and ‘Summer Rain’ are both short, deceptively simple, gentle and winning songs. The three note, three-word introductions to each verse have a cajoling influence on the intended audience: “Take my hand…” “Whats the rush?” And lead naturally towards the final words: “This love I have for you will never end.” That’s it. That’s the way a song can work; and notice also the gentle use of violin in the background. Who is that playing? David Mansfield who you should look up if you are unfamiliar with the name.
The third song is ‘The Iron Road,’ the emblem of this remarkable collection, demonstrating why Oisin and Mark deserve our attention. This song, lyrically, supports a message: “a brother wandering…” “a century of sorrow and pain…” “lend a brother your right hand” “on the iron road remember him tonight.” The force of allusion and understatement creates an eye tingling reaction, with the final words of the song: “On the iron road recall Joe Hill tonight.”