Clancy – Road to the Heart
Paul Clancy recorded this album before his death earlier this year. Sadly, he never got the chance to hear it. Thus, his tragic story has echoes of Mic Christopher. Paul Clancy was best known for his band National Prayer Breakfast, but on this album, he was set to carve out a name for himself as a solo act.
The album follows the trend of Irish singer-songwriters, of which dozens have emerged in the last decade or so. David Gray has a lot to answer for. Paul’s voice is more like Tom Dunne of Something Happens, except without the bells and whistles. The album is sparse, leaving the vocals and lyrics to do the work.
Opener and title track ‘Road to the Heart’ is a lovely introduction, and one of the most powerful songs on the record. ‘Sad Song’ is exactly as the title suggest, it’s slow, melodic, and starkly memorable. Being the drummer in NPB gave Paul a great sense of rhythm, and this is none more obvious than on the angry ‘Lancelot’. “Oh how has life won me over / Ain’t this life a motherfucker”. Sure is, when talented acts like Paul are taken from us at 34.
Many of the songs here are in the Josh Ritter mould – especially ‘Led Astray’, ‘Your Paul’ and ‘Baby You’re So Cool’. There are many influences that can be heard here. ‘Led Astray’ has moments of the Jeff Buckley version of Leonard Cohen’s ‘Hallelujah’, and the repeated lyrics “no more will I be led astray” are particularly poignant.
‘Sweet Sunshine’ is a gorgeous ballad, with some beautiful arrangements. All the songs on the album were arranged and performed by Paul himself and Kevin Connolly from Herm – the two musicians working brilliantly together – there is not a hint of embellishment here. Nothing ever outstays its welcome.
It’s a lovely, warm album, and a must-listen to anyone who’s a fan of Irish singer-songwriters, or National Prayer Breakfast. Paul Clancy made a gem with this one, it’s just an awful pity he wasn’t around to see its release.