Brigid Mae Power – The Two Worlds
Tompkins Square – 9 February 2018
The elusive Brigid Mae Power’s last appearance on this site was with her six-track release The Ones You Keep Close, just under a year ago last May. That EP was something of a stopgap, consisting of newly recorded takes on some of her older songs, together with a revamped cover of the traditional As I Roved Out. Since then, Brigid’s been busy writing new material at home in Ireland, examining her feelings and thoughts as she returned to live in Galway where she grew up, experiencing and noticing again the repressive and oppressive environment there. There’s always been a pronounced feeling of claustrophobia about Brigid’s music, but by and large, this characteristic has intrigued rather than oppressed the listener, primarily due to the interestingly opaque backdrops and textures that surround her swooning voice.
Brigid’s creations have always been “kept close” at hand and thus have repaid further detailed listening, and her new album is no exception to this rule. But Brigid felt that its songs needed the right environment in order to be recorded truthfully – especially the album’s catalyst, an uncharacteristically political statement Don’t Shut Me Up (Politely), which had lain dormant, unfinished from a few years previously and simply required the “ammunition” to finish it – this having been provided by the move home, back to Galway. This song is a direct expression of what’s on the minds of many women right now, resonating with any woman who (in basic terms) has been told how to think, behave or live by anyone in “authority”. The song’s sad (in the sense of unfortunate) intrinsic topicality provided the rationale and impetus for it to be released as a single a short time ago, and it certainly makes a potent impact with its rushing rhythm and ominous, poundingly insistent bass figure.
The remaining nine of the new album’s ten songs may be less overtly political in nature, but they directly address more specifically personal issues such as lost friendships and what Brigid terms “how to balance being settled and also being up in the clouds”. There’s a couple of songs about her grandmother too. It’s interesting to learn that some of the lyrics weren’t even complete when the studio time became available (in Co. Down) to get the album recorded, and Brigid had to indulge in some hurried white-heat creative thinking to get them finished. Not that you can tell, for the aura of assurance and unerring forward-vision is strong and consistent throughout the album. It’s not even obvious, even I suspect now that it’s been pointed out, that the somewhat hymnal-sounding opening track I’m Grateful was (we’re told) the only song on the album not penned in Ireland; it was written in Oregon before the move back home.
Musically, The Two Worlds is mesmeric, therefore springs no surprises, retaining the carefully atmospheric, dreamlike ambience of its predecessors. Centred around Brigid’s trademark clangorous, heavy-sustain piano tone (or reverberant guitar and organ) for a backdrop, all detail is couched in a languid analogue sound that oozes authenticity. For a couple of the album’s later songs, the piano is replaced by sweeping piano-accordion chords underpinned by bass, giving an even more other-worldly feel especially in the case of the final song, the pleading Let Me Go Now. This sense of hard-won repose here and on the earlier delicate and beautifully contoured On My Own With You balances the wandersome melismatic melodies of other songs such as So You’ve Seen My Limit.
Upcoming UK & Ireland Shows
THURSDAY 15 MARCH
The Linenhall, Castlebar, Mayo, Ireland
FRIDAY 23 MARCH
Eagle Inn, Salford, UK
SUNDAY 25 MARCH
Asylum Studios, Woodbridge, Suffolk, UK
TUESDAY 27 MARCH
Servant Jazz Quarters, London, UK
WEDNESDAY 28 MARCH
Colston Hall, Bristol, UK
THURSDAY 29 MARCH
Bello Bar, Dublin, Ireland
FRIDAY 20 APRIL
The Roundy, Cork, Ireland
Ticket links and full show details here: http://www.brigidmaepower.com/