Golden Plec

Paul Mallon

It’s a rare occasion that an unsigned Irish act can achieve such a strong sense of musical professionalism. That professionalism is one thing, but to pair it with songs of supreme craft and subtlety is something that cannot simply be attributed to experience alone. The class of production and songwriting is so impressive from The Niall McCabe Band, one has to wonder why the name is not more familiar. From the opening chords of ‘Part Of The Light’ the talent from Niall and his band is several notches north of the mediocrity that can plague mainstream radio. That is not to say that proceedings here are not accessible. In fact most of ‘Part Of The Light’ is destined for mainstream attention. It’s the quality of the songs that set it apart, oozing with a confidence and swagger that is so desperately absent from our airwaves.

Kicking off with Big Heart, the record latches on to a groove that is maintained throughout. With vocals that are close to flawless (which owe a huge debt to Jeff Buckley it must be said) and a hugely gifted backing band, ‘Part Of The Light’ plays like a more pop-enthused Van Morrison. While some songs do drift by, others demand to be heard.  The title track is as catchy as it gets, with McCabe really showing the depths of an incredible vocal range. If this isn’t a single, somebody has made a huge mistake. Just when proceedings become a little too slick things get a shot in the arm with Long Times/Hard Times. Showing an aggression lacking in the other tracks, it adds some Zeppelin into the mix for a true tour de force of pop power. It’s an album that manages surprises within its startling consistency.

There are songs that come and go with a shrug of indifference, hard to dislike but equally difficult to love. Folk Soul and Rock and Roll is as pedestrian at its core as the title suggests and Over and Over/Big Heart Reprise is one ballad to many. The reprise itself is a clichéd example of the indulgence of an album that is perhaps a track or two too thick. These however are minor issues as no track here is anywhere near terrible.

That’s the main strength of ‘Part Of The Light’. For an album that doesn’t dramatically shift through the gears it remains for the most part genuinely engaging. Its influences may be obvious and varied but applying them to structured, accessible songs is truly difficult. To also have great songs at the end of that process makes the Niall McCabe Band even more intriguing.

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With the rich harmonic aesthetic of ‘Big Heart’ opening the album, McCabe and his band effortlessly interweave melodically, establishing the lush production and sound of Part of the Light from the outset. From this engaging introduction the depth of musicianship found within the record is translated with each melodic passage.

Opening the sonic scope and timbre of the L.P, the heart breaking slow-burning soul of ‘Hold On’ continues the record’s timeless quality, while the brooding blues driven ‘Long Time / Hard Time’ adds an extra edge by juxtaposing the softer, swaying aesthetic that forms much of Part of the Light, and also showcases the Niall McCabe band’s more aggressive leanings.

However, Niall McCabe and his band are at their best when performing the straight-up soul and R&B infused music found in ‘Folk, Soul, Rock & Roll’. With its heavily anchored groove, beautifully performed backing vocals and large booming bursts of brass, the joyous aesthetic translates a clear appreciation of the album strong roots and love of the music that inspired it.

While Part of the Light could have benefited from a grittier take on the genres it explores, the album veers dangerously close to losing its sense of self within its own influences, the Niall McCabe band imbue enough love of their craft and sheer musicianship that this aspect becomes less of an issue as the album continues.

Providing a cohesive sonic tapestry for McCabe emotive song writing to sit above Part of the Light is a sonically rich and engaging release that highlights the band’s talent and ability with each track, marking songwriter as an exciting prospect for the future.

This song has just made my Monday. Part of the Light by the Cork based, Niall McCabe Band is a wonderfully uplifting soul number with some huge vocals that Stevie Wonder would be proud of. Starting soft before ending on a crescendo of  guitars, organs, brass and enough positive energy to make Relish sound like Radiohead. Catch The Niall McCabe band live around Ireland during March and April.