Galwegian Mister Ebby is a strange character. His website describes him as a piano player and song writer. He appears to be much more though, judging by his extensive blog and his 27,000+ tweets. His début album ‘Wires’ was released at the end of last year. It has a rather stripped-back sound with the leading piano and vocals only occasionally joined by strings or drums.
One of the problems faced with such sparse instrumentation is finding the balance. Songs can be piano led or vocally led without causing any problems, but when each is battling for an equal footing there can be issues. That is certainly a problem encountered by Mister Ebby towards the start of the album. On I Wish You Were Here for example, Mister Ebby tries to fit too many syllables over too few beats and the result sounds messy.
While some songs turn a nice phrase – see Is This What They Call Romance? – others don’t work so well. The Bliss Returns is a happy tune but never reaches blissful levels, while the Phoenix of the so-titled song arises from the water rather than more traditional ashes. Often when trying to sound sweet and soft the vocals come across as weak and airy and that serves to distract from the emotion Mister Ebby tries to convey. The nadir of the album is certainly Sanatorium. This track is a spoken word poem over choral chanting. While that could be bad in itself; the fact that it sounds like June Rodgers (remember her?) reading a ghost story to children makes it all the worse.
There are a few highpoints in the album though. Rerun sees the piano supplying an upbeat riff with the vocals and strings working more as support to the piano. The epic Galway Rain – the one occasion where the softer vocal style works – and the instrumental closer Theme 4 are sweet tunes that highlight a sensitivity that was sadly lacking earlier in the album.
While there are aspects of the album that work well – the layered vocals on Helen for example, are a nice effect – overall it falls some way short of a quality release. ‘Wires’ is listenable throughout without being particularly memorable or inspiring. There is enough present to hope that Mister Ebby can produce something high quality in the future. Here’s hoping.