Lisa O’Neill is a seanchaí, a storyteller who uses performance and sound to weave tangled tales that grow in the telling. All Of This Is Chance, the songwriter’s latest offering, is a volume of thematic vignettes where O’Neill serves as the narrator and the subject in a landscape both beautiful and unforgiving.
From the outset, O’Neill is commanding. Beguiling the listener into jagged soundscapes of windswept trad and turbulent folk. Found in the opening drone, sparse spoken delivery of the title-track, lines like “Watch him, that man on the hill. Whose spirit is a wet sack flapping about the knees of time” unfurl with ease and purpose. Through lyrical twists and turns, Lisa O’Neill paints pictures for us to envision the characters at the center of All Of This Is Chance.
All Of This Is Chance is deftly woven. Soft threads like ‘Birdy from Another Realm’ and ‘The Globe’ tiptoe across the wild landscape of the album, while the spikey folk of ‘Silver Seed’ and screeching passages of ‘Whilst the Wild Workings of the Mind’ jut out in contrast. All which follows the record’s essential element, the temper of the story, and the intensity of the storyteller.
The majestic ‘Old Note’ encapsulates the over-arching mood and tone of All Of This Is Chance. Lisa O’Neill’s voice has never been so captivating. Divorced of lyrical meaning, her performance alone could convey the longing resting in its heart. But when it melded with lines like “A star ran rings around the star before me and spun and swooped and sank in rock beneath me”, the music and album soared.
And so it goes, Lisa O’Neill’s All Of This Is Chance is the artist’s best work to date. As poetic and expressionistic as the seanchaí, O’Neill’s songwriting paints pictures whilst her performance give them emotion. Add to this the nuanced musical mirroring of the meaning, and you have an album that’s worth revisiting time after time just to see what lies beneath.