All rise for the return of the baritone from Bray. After a four-year hiatus, Hozier triumphs on his four track EP ‘Nina Cried Power’.
Expression through ecclesiastical paradox is something of Hozier’s trademark. Just as Take Me To Church acted as a talisman for the equal marriage referendum, this latest offering once again taps into the socio-political zeitgeist.
If channeling Nina Simone is considered a brave endeavour, regaling the visceral struggle of civil rights activists could seem downright foolhardy. However, Hozier manages to eloquently articulate, without pillaging emotional territory not his to claim, thanks to his most fitting collaboration with Mavis Staples who bequeaths her vocals to the titular track.
Just so we are clear, yes, it is that Mavis Staples, the curator of freedom songs, activism and artistry. From her refusal to be denigrated as a second-class citizen to her refusal of Dylan’s hand in marriage; to be described as a legend falls short of this warrior.
Nina Cried Power is an homage to activists past and present. Hozier’s voice casts like a long shadow during a showdown – “It’s not the wakin’, it’s the risin’. It is the groundin’ of a foot uncompromising” .
Hozier is vocally at home amongst the congregation of gospel and greats. The ascension of Staples on the chorus as Booker T J alights the organ is platinum. Hozier has delivered a prayer for protest laden with context for the current moment, as political activism is being embraced once again by a new generation. Nina Cried Power is an embodiment of defiance and perfectly on point.
Demonstrating his mastery of dynamism, the second track NFWMB is a meeting of the waters whereby Celtic mysticism meets Memphis. An acronym for Nothing F**ks With My Baby, the acoustic rhythm guitar broods throughout. Hozier’s lyrics of adoration navigate the ancient and the sacred, from Bethlehem to the Blackthorn tree. “If I was born as a blackthorn tree, I’d wanna be felled by you, held by you”.
Hozier’s dons his blues vestments for Moment’s Silence (Common Tongue) whilst his musical dexterity rifts along deftly, albeit in a little bit too familiar fashion.
It is the EP’s closing track Shrike that is a standout. Flitting acoustic guitar hops from note to note, much like the bird of its namesake. Hozier’s talent as both a lyricist and poet is apparent in this track that is equal parts folk and romanticism. “Remember me love, when I’m reborn as a shrike to your sharp and glorious thorn”.
All rise and awake for Hozier has risen again.