In August, 1997, I attended my very first Mountain Stage concert. The main act that night was Joan Baez ,and she was supported by Dar Williams, Duke Robillard, Laura Love, and Sinéad Lohan.
Sinéad was touring to support the U.S. release of her second studio album, No Mermaid. Her first album, Who Do You Think I Am, was only available in Ireland at the time. The title tracks from both albums were covered by Joan Baez on her album Gone From Danger (named for a lyric “Who Do You Think I Am?”). “No Mermaid” was also featured in the film Message in a Bottle.
The strength of Sinéad’s music is heard more often in her voice and lyrics than the music itself. Her voice is a melodic husky half-whisper, akin to the subtle velvetesque vocal style of Cat Power and Beth Orton in their early works.
The Who Do You Think I Am? album is purely acoustic, singer-songwriter fare. But it does what it does well. I remember Sinéad mentioning at the Mountain Stage concert that one of the songs on the album was written about her father, but I can’t recall if it was the title track or “Bee in the Bottle”. Oh well. My favourite tracks on the album are “Who Do You Think I Am?” and “You’re In My Love”.
Is it winter where you are? Try to find me if you can
For reasons I won’t go into here, the lyrics of “Who Do You Think I Am?” are some of my favourites. Though it may be due more to the strong yet vulnerable tone Sinead’s voice and delicate guitar playing give to the song than the lyrics themselves.
“You’re In My Love” is the ultimate sappy love song. Especially if you’ve have the fortunate opportunity to listen to it while sitting with a loved one beside the picturesque lake in Glendalough, Ireland.
The No Mermaid album features many lyrics that hint at a jaded, weary outlook on life and relationships, but Sinéad’s vocals and music are bouyant enough to give a lift to her poetic, occasionally sardonic musings.
Heard in another singer’s voice, the tunes probably wouldn’t display such a wisely resilent impression of the narrator. The sombre music and vocals of the Joan Baez cover of the title track hold a darker tone, but I prefer the joyfully defiant feel of the original. Sinéad’s “No Mermaid” could be the sister song to The Waterboys’ “Fisherman’s Blues”.
“Loose Ends” has a slower, almost trip-hop (almost, but not quite) bluesy beat to it. When I first bought the album, it was my least favourite of the 12 tracks. But it grew on me and now it’s the first I play when I put the cd in the stereo.
“What Can Never Be” is not a song you should listen to after a breakup, unless you want to cry the tears of the truly heartbroken. Here Sinéad drops the pop polish and returns to the wistful, bare bones sound of her first album.
The semi-ballad “Out of the Woods” has consistently been my favourite on the album. There’s nothing outrageously innovative about the song, but it is pretty and poetic mood music that could easily fit on a chillout compilation.
I attempted to reach Sinéad and her management to request permission to share her music here, but the contact email on her website is no longer valid. If anyone has information on her activities in recent years, leave a comment.