Music Reviews, Niall Rainey & The Dirty Bullets

Niall Rainey & The Dirty Bullets – Roll On Someday

31st August 2013

I’m taken by Niall Rainey and The Dirty Bullets’ album Roll On Someday. Strolling around north-east London today in a fruitless quest to find an Irish Times for the Seamus Heaney obits I got to listen all the way through the album that Niall Rainey kindly sent me recently. It made me grin like a goon in the street for lengthy periods.

Copenhagen based Niall is from Derry (add London to taste), this year’s UK City of Culture. He has a rich, unaffected, unfailingly in tune and impossibly tuneful voice. It conveys each song with honesty. The album opens with smooth, easy on the ear tunes that remind me of Richard Ashcroft or Del Amitri. The Dirty Bullets have been recorded beautifully and the bass, guitar, piano and guitars all complement each other in a way that suggests they must be a hell of a live act.

O19 is a Wilco-like song of lost youth and for a relatively young man Niall’s lyrics, delivery and the overall sound of the band seem mature beyond their years. Themes such as love, adulthood, mortality, love of family and friends (October Bride is a loving song of appreciation to a sister) and peace (man) are covered with sensitivity by Niall who also displays an attractively unique acoustic guitar style.

As the album develops, extra treats for the ears are dropped into the mix, such as some well judged strings here, swathes of pedal steel guitar there, judicious use of lush layered harmonies at regular intervals. And then…

Were this a record, Side 2 would begin with Take Me Back (the album’s standout track?). Beginning with drums a la 21st century Radiohead, this song is darker and heavier than the rest. Niall’s voice takes on a gravelly, powerful quality. Latin sounding brass enters and takes the song into vaguely Gene-style territory, which is uncanny as following the expansive, heavy title track there’s a moment in the vocal of Happy Birthday that wibbles Martin Rossiterishly. Incidentally, said track brings to mind a post Garfunkel Paul Simon. If one song on this cd could be said to sum up the whole collection it would be If You Go Running – a tale of friendship with Niall’s trademark warmth and humanity running gently through it.

All said, Roll On Someday is an album full of songs whose rightful home is on mainstream radio. It’d be nothing less than just if that’s where they end up.