Peter Delaney & Cian Nugent

I’ve seen Peter Delaney perform twice now in the past two weeks, and by gosh if I haven’t fallen tongue-lollingly in love with his music.

Ukeleles can often be associated with tacky, Hawaiian pop songs or ‘quirky’ tunes, but in the hands of someone like Delaney they become a perfectly miniature way of crafting a heartbreaking melody.

At last night’s Hefty Horse gig, where Delaney played support to Uni and her Ukelele, I bought a copy of his 2007 album, Duck Egg Blue, which was released on the Dead Slack String label.

Listening to it, the difference between the Peter Delaney of four years ago and today is astounding. Though a man who seems like he prefers the shadows to the spotlight, his humbleness is touched by shyness on his debut.

Today, he still has that soft, unimposing demeanour, and keeps his eyes cast down as he performs. But his voice is so much richer now. When he performs them live today, there’s a depth to the songs on his debut album that had barely been struck when they were recorded.

It’s as though he has found new meaning in songs like Pariah Chimes – ‘He’s a hound of the city, but that don’t mean much to you and me’ – and an inner confidence that allows him to communicate that meaning more clearly.

At times, he reminds me of Will Oldham’s younger brother,  but whereas Oldham has a frightening darkness simmering away beneath a lot of his work, Delaney manages to make even his murkiest songs feel unthreatening.

The good news is that Delaney is working on his next album, and the songs he played from that sound absolutely incredible. This is a guy who has found his perfect mode and is letting it mature naturally…and the results are goosepimple-inducing.

He will support Fionn Regan on tour at the end of July. Go, see, please.

(Special thanks to the many people in Galway who spoke to me in reverent tones about Peter Delaney’s greatness, especially Declan Q Kelly)

****

Photo by Ailbhe Nic Oireachtaigh via http://www.ifc.com

One of the gigs I saw Peter perform at was Cian Nugent‘s album launch for Doubles, his latest – epic and very ambitious – record.

Nugent is one of those people who seems like he was born out of his time. He crafts the sort of folk (if I was to limit him to just one genre, which given the scope of his work, feels somewhat cruel) that could be be played on park benches or back porches, while tumbleweed runs past saloons and waistcoat-wearing men chew strands of straw and talk of civil unrest…Or on a cavernous stage in the Guinness-soaked-tourist-swamped heart of Dublin’s city centre.

Doubles has two tracks that are 20 (Peaks and Troughs) and 24 (Sixes and Sevens) minutes long – and they twist and turn, build up and break down, in the most captivating of ways. Nugent and his band give themselves breathing room when they need it and, such as at the beginning of Peaks and Troughs, leave us hanging on every empty beat or picked string.

In yesterday’s Sunday Times Culture magazine, Nugent was hailed as a genius by Conor O’Brien of Villagers, and described by Eithne Shorthall (whose work I really admire) as ‘largely unknown’.

Nugent may not yet be a household name (though if John Fahey or Jack Rose are well-known names in your abode, he may well be), but his reputation has been steadily building here and especially abroad for quite some time.

And he is so young, and preternaturally talented, that he can’t remain an ‘unknown genius’ for too long. Plus, people adore Nugent’s music, and judging by the hugs, kisses and loving back-slaps that were doled out to him as he sat watching the support acts on the night of his album launch, he is much adored as a person, too.

Doubles is available in all good independent record stores.

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