ALISON O’DONNELL: “Climb Sheer the Fields of Peace” LP

On the theme of reverence, it was with much mirth and delight that we caught wind of a new solo album by Alison O’Donnell. She shone during the United Bible Studies performance in Belfast back in November 2016 and having spent months transfixed by the “Anointed Queen” we wondered what “Climb Sheer the Fields of Peace” would bring. Well, it’s very much a short song-based affair with minimalist instrumentation and her timeless, ageless voice commanding centre stage. “Redbreast in a Rowan Tree” is just that. Naturally, she speaks of Nature, time and again, through crisp and clear poetry. Sometimes the lullaby will bewitch. But really listen to catch the magic unfold. Set to gentle guitar strumming, “In The Snowmelt” is full of it and the layered chorus special. “An Empire in its Glory” and “Pathways” are no less haunting. The lure of those songs, accentuated by a full cast of fellow student guests, is hard to resist. But the church organ accompaniment to “Sylvia’s Deadbolt” or “Green of Heart” make these simple treasures equally poignant. Finally, it would be remiss not to pass comment on “The Pull and Drag Blues” partly because it makes for a strange ending and even more so with the vivid memory of David Colohan’s grimace in mind, as Allison laughed, when queried with them at a subsequent United Bible Studies gig. Perhaps his Yamaha PS-20 piece was intended as a joke that backfired. However, Allison’s delivery underlines her vocal dexterity and Matt Leivers’ fleeting soprano saxophone appearance makes for a welcome flourish.

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