Dark Days: Goodbye to Fergus O’Farrell

I’m stunned and so very sad to learn of Fergus O’Farrell’s death. The Irish singer-songwriter was truly the most humble and kind musician I’ve ever had the privilege of communicating with. Fergus was so appreciative of every little thing I wrote about his music, even after his band, Interference, gained worldwide attention through Once – Fergus appeared in the film and on its popular soundtrack performing the Interference song “Gold” with Glen Hansard.

I was astounded in 2010 when he sent me the unreleased demos of “Sail On” and “Dark Days” and asked for my “critical advice.” As if I had any right to an opinion! Let alone the ability to offer any advice or constructive criticism. I don’t think he ever realized how talented or how famous he was, even those raw demos blew my mind. That kind of genuine artistry and strong character is so rare now.

Fergus once told me Bowie was “a massive influence” on his musuc – particularly my favorite Interference song “Psycho Jill.” Fergus O’Farrell likely won’t garner the same amount of memorial tributes as David Bowie, but the music world has suffered just as big a loss of true artistic genius with his passing.

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Maria Doyle Kennedy: Mutter

Maria Doyle Kennedy is an Irish actress and singer best known for her roles in The Commitments (along side a babyfaced Glen Hansard), The Matchmaker, Father Ted, Queer as Folk, and most recently for her astounding performance as the formidable Queen Katherine in The Tudors. Maria’s third album Mütter (the German word for “mother”) was released last year on her own independent record label Mermaid Records. While many of the tracks were inspired by Chuck Palahniuk’s book Diary, the album also features a song co-written with Fergus O’Farrell of Interference.

secret lines of suffering, conduit of skin and bone
sit you down and draw you in, showing you the double edge of keening

I wasn’t sure what to expect from Maria’s music, but I certainly did not imagine the swirling, moody pop and ambient folk that shrouds her voice on so many of the songs. The opener “Unbelievable” slips a softly atmospheric melody beneath Maria’s rich vocals. The seductive throaty rustle of Maria’s voice cannot easily be compared to anyone else.

The stand out tracks “Mother” and the quieter “Stuck” dip into a darker tone that blends eerie verses with sweeping strings and voxes on the chorus. The instrumentation of the tracks remind me of the more delicate elements of Mazzy Star with a touch of Belly’s debut. Meanwhile, the churning bass of “Fuckability” recalls early PJ Harvey.

Interference‘s Fergus O’Farrell co-wrote the more earnest “Call Me”. “Here You Come” and “Forty Days” return to the muted, airy pop of the opening tracks, this time tempered with the lightest hint of blues. The simpler acoustics of the finale “Swoon” are refreshing, finally allowing Maria’s voice to fully take the spotlight. I’d like to hear Maria’s lovely voice free of so much production, but it’s an unquestionably good album nonetheless.

Maria Doyle Kennedy – Mother (mp3 expired)
Maria Doyle Kennedy – Call Me (mp3 expired)

The album is currently only available for purchase through Maria’s website.

Maria Doyle Kennedy Official Site
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Interference: Live In Dingle

Interference‘s Live In Dingle album was recorded live in 2003 at St. James Church in Dingle, Ireland for RTÉ’s Other Voices: Songs From A Room. Once star and The Frames frontman Glen Hansard again joins the band.

The heartfelt condemnations of war “American Townland” and “Nowhere” open Live In Dingle on a much more serious tone than their previous release, with the music taking a backseat to Fergus’ soulful vocals. “I Was Looking For Someone” is a softer, wistful ballad that finally allows the strings to rise with O’Farrell’s voice.

The disc includes idyllic acoustic renditions of “Cain & Abel”, “Prayer For A Voyage”, “Vaj Vaj”, and “Gold” – all from Interference’s self-titled album. Glen Hansard contributes his voice and guitar to “Gold” and the striking wailer “Breaking Out”.

Though I favor the studio album, this live set is well worth obtaining if only for the two opening songs, the Hansard collaborations, and the ravishinge finale “I’m Your Man”.

Interference – American Townland (mp3 expired)
Interference (feat. Glen Hansard) – Breaking Out (mp3 expired)

Interference Official Site

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If you’ve seen Once, you’ve already heard the music of Interference. The Irish band sang with The FramesGlen Hansard in the pub scene of Once and their song “Gold” also appears on the movie’s soundtrack. The tune was originally featured on Interference’s 2003 self-titled release, on which Glen Hansard guests. If you like that song, you will love their album. And even if you somehow don’t like the song, you still might love the album. Interference is led by singer-songwriter Fergus O’Farrell of County Cork, Ireland, and their music jumps from traditional Irish and folk balladry to pop and classic rock glamour.

Though I enjoyed the Once version of “Gold”, I think I prefer the original take. The band’s vocal harmony ebbs and flows flawlessly on the timeless melody underpinned by a mix of violin, bongos, and electric guitar. The string accented “Prayer Before A Voyage” is even more lovely, sounding like a Ziggy Stardust cover of a traditional sea chantey. “Vaj Vaj” is an atmospheric piano ballad.

The catchy pop ditty “Vinegar Girl” was co-written by Glen Hansard, who sings and plays guitar on the track. The classic rock doused “Wild Cat Strutting Thing” is as cool as it title suggests, and the Bowiesque “Chow Mein” is both funky and funny. The influence of Thin Lizzy seems apparent, but I also wonder if Fergus is a fan of Ted Nugent and Talking Heads. “Wild Bill’s Circus Scene” flows back into a softer folk sound zested with trombone and violin, then the moody “Too Many Paths” swirls into uncharted territory.

Every track on the album is fantastic, but the real stunner is “Psycho Jill”. The title is interesting enough, but Fergus alternates between eerie singing, haunting whistles, and horripilating spoken word verses while the ominous bass guitar, strings, and piano build into a crescendo of creepiness. The song would make a good companion to “Greatest Show On Earth” by Felice Brothers.

Usually, my problem is being denied permission to share even one mp3 in a review. This time, Fergus kindly gave me permission to share any tracks but “Gold”. It was nearly impossible to narrow it down to just two songs. I cannot recommend and praise this album enough.

Interference – Psycho Jill (mp3 expired)

Interference Official Site

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