New albums by Lorraine Nash and Stephen Shannon: Echoes of Laurel Canyon and sounds with a widescreen scope

Lorraine Nash. Photo by Shane J Horan

All That I Can Be by Lorraine Nash

Fathoms by Stephen Shannon

John Meagher

Neil Young’s 1974 album On the Beach has been reappraised over the past decade or so as one of his most enduring albums. Its seaside-themed cover is striking and it has surely inspired the artwork for ­Lorraine Nash’s debut album, All That I Can Be. The Kerry native is photographed on a strand, Atlantic waves behind her, and a lampshade in place of Young’s sun lounger.

All That I Can Be by Lorraine Nash

If Neil Young was the master at writing songs that get to the heart of the human condition, the same can be said of Nash’s from-the-heart compositions. Her talents were first signalled in 2020 with an EP, Wildflower, and this evocative album comfortably lives up to expectations.

Inspired by both the folk tradition and the Laurel Canyon school of confessional songwriting, of which Young was once a part, she sings candidly about relationship woes, bittersweet moments and the pleasures and pains of daily life.

The first half of the album is especially strong thanks to the catchy, aptly named opener, Sing with Her — a fine showcase for her fine, assertive vocals — and the moving, meditative The Fire, The Flood with its talk of “bridges that we can mend”.

Acoustic guitar and piano provide the bedrock for several of the tracks, while Jason O’Driscoll’s thoughtful bass and drums add intriguing texture. Strings are applied judiciously too. Maria O’Connor’s cello on Bittersweet is the perfect addition for a touching, mournful song in which she sings that “when the honey has stopped flowing, heartache is lying underneath” and Maria Ryan’s violin delivers intrigue and colour.

Nash is very much her own musician, but her robustly penned songs are redolent of Mary Black around the time of No Frontiers. That was the album that made Black a star, and while All That I Can Be tails off a little towards the end, there’s more than enough here to win Lorraine Nash a significant audience.

Fathoms by Stephen Shannon

Dublin musician Stephen Shannon has had an eclectic career, one has encompassed electronica and the classical tradition. Some might be familiar with his work in the bands Halfset and Mount Alaska or in his more recent endeavours as a composer for film and television. A recent credit is the Paramount+ original The Ex-Wife.

Fathoms is the first album to be released under his own name (previous solo music was made under the Strands monicker) and it fuses both his electronic and classical passions. Recorded with musicians from the Crash Ensemble, the tracks are stately and elegant and — hardly surprising considering the soundtrack work — widescreen in scope.

Eyot is especially captivating — a beguiling synthesis of strings and synths — while Past Tense is a beautifully moody piece redolent of Jonny Greenwood and Michael Nyman’s film work.

An air of melancholy pervades — Shannon has spoken about how the deaths of two old friends informed the composition. The Eno-seque song titles — The Manes, Filigree and Aqueous among them— were chosen by his wife, the author, critic and soon-to-be debut novelist, Sinéad Gleeson.

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