Album: ‘Let the Cards Fall’
Date: 14 September 2018
Label: Real World Records
Ríoghnach Connolly and Stuart McCallum are the creative heart of The Breath. Ríoghnach – singer, lyricist and flautist – is Armagh born and Manchester based. Known for her work with Afro Celt Sound System and Honeyfeet, she is he has a remarkable voice, a deep elegiac sensibility and a mischievous character. Stuart, by contrast, is a Mancunian urbanite, a guitarist who’s worked with Cinematic Orchestra and is given to dry understatement and calm confidence. Together, they have a remarkable connection.
‘Let the Cards Fall’ is their new album and the follow-up to their 2016 breakthrough, ‘Carry Your Kin’. It is a bewitching collection of songs that journeys from lush, beguiling storytelling to uplifting, punch-the-air anthems. Allowed to mature and breathe without losing the widescreen, multi-textured kaleidoscope of sound that marked their debut, ‘Let the Cards Fall’ refines their unique Manchester take on alt-folk.
For Stuart and Ríoghnach, writing is spontaneous and the words and music come quickly. Songs on Let The Cards Fall are put front and centre, stripping away some of the layers and bombast from Carry Your Kin in search of a softer, more organic palate. They chose to work quickly – tracks were written and recorded on the hoof, over a few days in a variety of locations – and hone closer to the creative spark which is at the heart of their music.
For the Breath, it’s all about the song. Connolly writes the only way she knows how; a stream of poetic consciousness giving rise to honest, personal, heartfelt songs as likely to touch on childhood summers and first love as cultural dislocation, post-colonial injustices and grief. But it’s her deeply soulful, utterly engaging, stop-you-in-your-tracks voice – whether delicate and hushed or powerful and gutsy – coupled with Stuart’s understated brilliance and their exquisitely crafted songs, that give The Breath such emotional depth.