The sparse entry into Michael Brunnock’s “The Orchard” is like easing one’s self into bed after a long day’s work. Within moments, we find ourselves slipping comfortably under the duvet that is found in Brunnock’s creation, encapsulated by the slow build-up of rich, warm harmonies, uplifting melodies, and beautiful folk instrumentation. Dedicated to his Grandfather, this album is a tribute to family and home, which is blatant from the word go for this Irish musician’s latest thirteen track release.
The opening track, Circle, sets the scene for the entire album. Luscious harmonies lift the melody out of the average to make it something really special. The chance of mediocrity was a risk I think Brunnock had to take with an album such as this, in a world where every “Average Joe” who owns a guitar will have a stab at writing a few songs. However, with a masterful skill, Brunnock takes the idea of a singer/songwriter to another level, calling on voices such as Ari Hest, Glen Hansard and Moe Holmes, to name but a few, to elevate the right aspects of tracks, and take his ideas to the next level.
Man Overboard, is a definite single. You’d want to be a strong person to not be drawn in by the massively catchy melody and sentiment behind the song . Brunnock builds the song beautifully to the climax, where everything comes together, and we can do nothing but listen, and soak up the music, lyrics and passion behind the song.
The Orchard, although less overtly catchy than Man Overboard, the easy, rhythmic sway of this one is irresistible. The gentle lope of this track, combined with the atmospheric vibes at work, creates an ambience not to be beaten, lulling us into a beautiful little musical coma. Guest vocalist Glen Hansard adds to the beautiful track with his subtly unique tone, which does well not to overpower the balance at work, between melody, harmony and ambience, but only adds to the track with a light, more than palatable harmonic addition.
An aspect I adored throughout this album, and one which highlighted tracks such as Wine, Sensation and Down by the Araglan, was Brunnock’s use of traditional instrumentation, and the man doesn’t restrict himself to the Irish tradition. Throughout, we also hear hints of American country and Australian folk with the introduction of the didgeridoo in the wonderful, short track Wine, combined throughout the album with banjos, mandolins, and harmonium, to name just a few of the instruments included in the line-up for this release. Sensation, the penultimate track, begins the wind-down of this album with a very relaxed vibe, which charms and delights with its juxtaposition of Brunnock’s clear Irish tone with Ari Hest’s jazzy American twang. Polished off with an all-female chorus, Brunnock’s voice sings us out with “carry me home, carry me home across the ocean”, a valuable sentiment maintained throughout this album.
The final track, Down by the Araglan, is probably my favourite. You could easily compare this to visiting home and sitting down in front of a plate of your mother’s home cooking, or the feeling of getting in after a trying day to pop on your favourite album and do nothing but listen. The strong traditional influences here are key, bringing to mind families, homes, childhoods, and all those aspects of lives I associate with traditional Irish song. Brunnock brings this album home by returning to his Irish roots, with this understated folk tune. Simple, sweet and easy, this track is the perfect end to “The Orchard”.
For those wishing to enjoy an easy album, rich with harmony and sentiment, this is an album for you. There’s no shortage of Irish character and charm to be found here, and combined with Brunnock’s creative spark and ability to seamlessly mix traditions worldwide with our own, an album such as this has come to fruition, and it is an album that shall see me through many a dank Irish day to come.