‘From Trad to folk & heavy rock, matched with powerful heartfelt lyrics. A very impressive group, great things ahead for them, stadium superstars in waiting
Ruth Smith, Simply Folk, RTE Radio 1
For over a decade late night driving, couch surfing and service station dinners fuelled Corner Boy’s evolving ramble through the many clubs, rooms and ruins of every shape and size up and down and across Ireland/World.
As a result a collection of songs willed their way into existence representative of this experience living and learning on the road crafted by the associated peaks and troughs that come with the territory.
And then? March 2020. With the band’s 2002 Ford Transit van (Sheila) now indisposed a moment finally arrived for Corner Boy to record their debut album. Under the tutelage of producer Gavin Glass the band sought refuge in Orphan Studios and some 18 months later emerged out the other side with debut album in hand.
Very much the sonic amalgam, Corner Boy explores in varying degrees combinations of folk, rock, traditional, bluegrass and alternative. Accompanied by heartfelt lyrics as earnest as they are resonant.
'With the inestimable Gavin Glass in the producer’s chair, plus a shopful of musical instruments and all six members on vocal duties, Wexford’s Corner Boy have spiced their guitar-rock sound with Americana and Irish folk, creating a unique indie-trad style.
After a stunning opening comprising solemn harmonies, pipes and pounding drums, ‘Blackstairs Winter Snow’ accelerates, with Mick D’Arcy’s careworn vocals underpinned by throbbing bass. Conor Foran’s banjo kickstarts ‘Kingdom Come And Go’, a U2-style effort with soaring harmonies.
Cian McGovern’s harmonica helps ‘Ghost Town City’ out of the traps onto a country-rock base, with D’Arcy’s voice at its most joyous, and James O’Sullivan’s fiddle flurries stirring the pot. ‘Go Soft Into The Night’ has a plaintive quality evoking celebrated poet Dylan Thomas, with Michael Sutherland’s staccato drums adding real drama.
Admitting a little light, to contrast with the shade, might have made this a perfect debut. But Corner Boy still come on like a band hacking their way through the indie jungle, cutting down swathes of tamer opposition. As a lyricist and vocalist, D’Arcy deserves special attention, while the CB Collective could be the delinquent offspring of The Pogues and The Killers. Tremendous stuff'
‘SOMETIMES bands don’t need to come up with fancy names for albums, or titles just to get attention. On occasion, the simple act of naming an album after the band itself is enough to whet the appetite of those familiar with the act in question. So it is with the artist under the spotlight this week. Corner Boy have been a mainstay on the local music scene in Wexford, and the broader national Irish music scene, for a number of years now.
A vehicle for the lyrical meanderings of founder, Mick D’Arcy, the singer and guitarist is accompanied in the band by some of the country’s foremost musicians with the full Corner Boy line-up being composed of: Conor Foran (banjo/guitar/vocals); Cian McGovern (piano/whistle/accordion/harmonica/vocals); James O’Sullivan (fiddle/guitar/vocals); Jordan Ryan (bass/vocals) and Michael Sutherland (drums/vocals). There is also additional accompaniment on the album courtesy of the legendary Gavin Glass who, in addition to producing the album, also adds pedal steel, dobro, guitars, synth and piano to the mix. In many ways Corner Boy defy being tagged with a specific genre label.
There is a touch of Irish folk, a bit of Americana, a smattering of blues and overall, a sound that is familiar yet also very unique.
‘Blackstairs Winter Snow’ begins in somewhat melancholic fashion before the main rhythm accompaniment kicks in and then it moves at a frantic pace. There is a lovely groove to the song and that’s aided by the bass pattern because it’s a pumping bass line as opposed to being specifically on the beat. It’s a subtle but very significant aspect of the arrangement because it enhances the driving rhythm of the track. As far as commercial appeal goes the song has it in spades and the melody remains in your mind long after the track has stopped.
‘Kingdom Come And Go’ is an uptempo rocker which displays many of the facets that make Corner Boy a very special band.
It’s rolling rhythm is infectious, the vocals are immense with fantastic harmonies while the musicianship is outstanding. It’s one of those upbeat type folk rock tracks that the likes of Horslips or The Pogues would have been proud to record.
‘Morning, Morning’ is easily among the catchiest tracks to be released by any Wexford, or Irish act, in years. It begins with its strongest asset – a chorus that is irritatingly memorable. This is folk rock at its very best and the full, broad sound of the accompaniment is fantastic. The warm sound of the album is excellent and there is lovely depth to the music.
‘Ghost Town City’ takes things down a notch tempo-wise, but only just, and it sits comfortably in the Americana bracket.
The vocal arrangement on the track is brilliant and the backing vocals are placed at specific points to have maximum effect and it works a treat. It’s arguably one of the most commercial tracks on the album, however, that’s ultimately down to personal taste at the end of the day. There is a lovely intermittent stop-start nature to the rhythm that adds to the appeal and accentuates the subtle nuances of the music.
‘River Born’ begins with a fantastic ‘feathered’ fiddle pattern before the various other instruments kick in. The level of musicianship on display throughout the album is compelling and the overall quality of the accompaniment highlights that fact in an exemplary way. The excellence of this band is very much the sum of its parts and what’s also worth noting is that in a live setting the band replicates what’s recorded in a way that most other acts can only aspire to do.
‘Let’s Hit The Road’ offers up a different take on the execution of backing vocals. While the main vocal melody is straight the backing is delivered in a chanting, belting style and it’s a very interesting mix. There is a lovely flow to the track and that’s continued, albeit in a different style, on ‘Moira’. One of my personal favourite tracks on the album it’s set to a lovely shuffle beat which sounds like it was executed using brushes. There is a nice laidback vibe to the track too. It’s the type of track fans of The Wild Feathers, Michigan Rattlers or Whiskeytown will love.
‘Go Soft Into The Night’ is absolutely sublime. A gentle ballad, it’s a track where D’Arcy’s talent as a vocalist really comes to the fore. The fact all the band members are excellent singers is certainly a bonus but D’Arcy himself has a lovely timbre to his voice that makes his vocals very easy on the ear.
‘The Sea’, is somewhat different to most of the other songs. It emits a dark, almost sinister vibe and is one of the bluesier songs. The album closes with ‘I Dream Of Boston Town’ which is lovely downbeat ballad. It’s the ideal way to round out what is truly an excellent album from one of Ireland’s finest acts.’
1st Feb 2023