Barry McCormack – The Tilt Of The Earth

There was a time when I used to rage at the injustice of a music business that celebrates and elevates mediocrity at every turn.  We all know of bands and musicians that make incredible music but continue to go cruelly unnoticed while others with barely a smidgeon of their talent flourish and prosper.

I have long given up on trying to figure out the vagaries of the music business, the mysterious machinations that propel a band like Kasabian to success while countless more extravagantly gifted acts toil away in relative anonymity.
Luck and timing are often cited as lame reasons for this kind of anomaly but it’s hard not to be a little cynical when you see some of the banal acts that have been propelled to success on the back of a paltry helping of originality.

Dubliner Barry McCormack used to play with a band called the Jubilee Allstars back in the late nineties. They achieved cult status in their hometown; the critics loved them, everybody on the scene knew their name but widespread acceptance eluded them.

McCormack left the band following the release of their second album in 2001 and has been quietly pursuing a solo career ever since.  Each of his five solo albums has garnered lavish praise, but he continues to fly under the radar, continues to be one of those ‘best kept secrets’ the music scene occasionally jealously guards.

If there was any justice in the world, that should be changing around about now; sixth album The Tilt of the Earth is a magnificent record, a poetic, lyrical beauty that speaks with a rare eloquence about the Ireland of today. McCormack displays a song-writing talent that matches some of his more celebrated peers; listen closely and you can hear echoes of Nick Cave, Bob Dylan, Shane McGowan, Van Morrison and Mike Scott throughout the album.

The influence of literary figures like Behan and Joyce on his writing features heavily – McCormack depicts mundane scenes from daily Irish life, and invests them with a luminous, poetic quality.

It starts in the early house ( ‘All The Things You’ve Done’) and ends with an afterhours lockout ( ‘The Fellowship of the Open Road’) – in between, it’s election night on ‘Cash for Gold’ and an all too familiar picture of an Ireland of greasy, self serving politicians and greedy, profiteering landlords with ‘the horn for rising rents’.  On the jaunty ‘Take The Blows’ it’s a trip to a seaside town in search of a hangover cure and the balm of the sea breeze, pale faced, reeking of whiskey. ‘The Great North Road’ depicts that most Irish of scenes: ‘the christening was over, the baby’s head had been wet, we had all rejected Satan and most of his works..’

And then we are back, observing the great Liffey Swim from the comfort of a bar stool, musing on life and lost time on the gorgeously downbeat ‘The Chinese Barman’, another highlight on an album studded with them.

By the time we reach closing track ‘The Fellowship of the Open Road’ there is a sense that we have listened to something truly special.  With the ‘Tilt of the Earth’, Barry McCormack has created one of the finest Irish albums of the last decade. The tragedy is, that outside of a relatively small group of people who have discovered this wonderful record, McCormack and his music will remain an unknown quantity.

On Saturday 3 December, McCormack will take to a cramped stage in a small bar in the Smithfield area of Dublin. Outside, late night shoppers and Christmas jumper wearing revellers will mingle freely, spending too much and celebrating a little too vigorously, blissfully unaware that just a few hundred yards away, these rare and beautiful songs are quietly enchanting a coterie of the privileged few.

One of the finest albums of 2016.

4.5 out of 5 stars (4.5 / 5)

Barry McCormack plays the Cobblestone, Smithfield on Saturday 3rd December.