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Barry McCormack has released five critically acclaimed albums since leaving Jubilee Allstars, a band once described as equal parts Brendan Behan, Leonard Cohen and Velvet Underground. His songs have been described by The Handsome Family lyricist Rennie Sparks as ‘gritty short films that deeply and sensitively evoke the dark damp streets of modern Dublin’. He is about to release his sixth album The Tilt of the Earth, an ambitious meshing of folk storytelling with sounds and textures from the realms of Krautrock, Art rock and minimalism conjured up with co-producer Stephen Shannon .
Barry initially left the Allstars after the release of their second album Lights of the City (2001), which gained them some recognition as chroniclers of their hometown and showed a prescient awareness of boomtime hubris. The title track was described by the The Guardian as ‘probably the first great song explicitly written about the bittersweet effects of urban gentrification’.
His debut solo-album, the stripped-down-to-the-bone We Drank Our Tears (2003), was critically lauded for its songs inspired by the Irish folk tradition. Hot Press called it 'a melting pot of Brendan Behan, Bob Dylan and Shane MacGowan...McCormack has created an album of contemporary folk songs rooted in a tradition that goes back generations.'
The influence of the Dublin street-singing tradition, as well as his reading of local history, are apparent on Barry's second record, Last Night, as I was Wandering (2006). 'His city is a purgatorial stripmall facade of Nighttown', said Hot Press, 'populated by ghosts who walk: Kelly, Kavanagh, Behan, Dylan, MacGowan, the brothers Palace and Louvin and James Clarence Mangan.' The record was included in Tony Clayton-Lea’s book ‘101 Irish Records You Must Hear Before You Die’.
His third record, Night Visiting (2008), was something of a departure in that the songs took on a rural feel in both setting and story. Inspired by local history, short stories and murder ballads, the Irish Independent called it, ‘Patrick McCabe put to music. And, just as in McCabe’s novels the macabre and hilarious often sit side by side’.
Small Mercies (2011) returned to the themes of Lights of the City, except the boomtown was now bust, and saw him playing with a full band again on a record that began his collaboration with producer Stephen Shannon. The Irish Times’ Brian Boyd called it ‘a wondrous affair…writing of a post-boom Dublin landscape that you only thought Phil Chevron capable of…a triumph’
His fifth album Cut Throat Lane was released in 2013 and garnered some great reviews. Tony Clayton-Lea gave it four stars in The Irish Times and remarked ‘there is surely not a better narrative lyricist in Ireland…brilliant’ while Rennie Sparks went on to write in her review ‘like James Joyce’s Dubliners McCormack’s new album is a story of Dublin told from many voices…turning dark doings into beautiful art.’
The Tilt of the Earth is released on October 21st 2016.