Rónán Ó Snodaigh – The Last Mile Home

Album Review | Kila Records | Review by Allan Wilkinson | Stars: 3/5

The distinctive voice of some of Kíla’s most outstanding performances, most recently in “Leath Ina Dhiaidh A Hocht”, the opener to their last album Gambler’s Ballet, doing for Pachelbel’s “Canon”what De Dannan did for Handel’s “Arrival of the Queen of Sheba”, has laid down another bunch of self-penned songs, for this his fourth solo album.  As an accomplished poet, Ó Snodaigh has made the transition to song writing with relative ease, with a prolific back catalogue, which includes songs written in both Irish and English.  Heavily laden with sound effects, The Last Mile Home meanders through twelve songs of varying degrees of quality, but with a consistent theme that threatens to weaken and stumble at any moment.  Ó Snodaigh’s distinctive Bodhrán style has long been part of Kíla’s sound together with his unmistakable voice, but here the emphasis is more on acoustic statements and chant-like outpourings of restrained rage.  Unlike Kíla’s highly polished albums, Ó Snodaigh has presented a warts and all production with this album.  The vocal on “Samurai” could quite easily have been recorded after an all-night bender, but is still powerful in its simplicity.  Some of the songs are at best mediocre self-indulgent musings about nothing in particular such as “Long Time Dead”, which probably was more fun to sing than to listen to.  “Raise The Road” is an interesting song accompanied by various bits of percussion, including his trademark Bodhrán, which in all fairness is what we expect from Ó Snodaigh.  Reminiscent of Tom Waits’ Small Change period “Step Right Up”, the enthusiastically delivered chant makes its point coherently and succinctly.  “Go Dea” partly revisits the melody of the aforementioned “Leath Ina Dhiaidh A Hocht” for some reason, before “Dancin” takes the album on an entirely different tangent.  Think along the lines of Benjamin Zephaniah’s contribution to The Imagined Village, and you won’t be too far off the mark.  “Night Song” has the same sort of plaintive resonance more commonly associated with the songs of Bonnie Prince Billy and offers another side of Ó Snodaigh that I personally prefer on the whole.  If my glass is not overflowing with The Last Mile Home, I would admit to it being rather half full than half empty.