An album release from The Conall Band hits a classic rock sweet spot from the songwriting to the guitar tonality and the record has a load of edginess and color that helps shape the character of the whole thing.
The Essai album is loaded with heart and style that bring together the influences of many classic rock bands that have helped create and inspire the soundscape that we're hearing on this album.
Everything about this feels really genuine and authentic, especially in terms of the tones and the way it was recorded because when you listen to these songs you feel like there are songs you could have been listening to on classic rock radio stations for the past three decades at least.
There are definitely layers that you can peel back throughout the course of the album and it all has a way of wrapping itself around you and keeping you right where it wants.
The guitar worker press record is outstanding and there are some great lead licks and guitar harmonies that have a way of entrancing you quickly.
A lot of the time you do pay attention to the lyrical content and how the songs are able to tell stories that almost feel like they connect with each other making this whole record feel almost like a concept album as well.
No I'm not totally sure that's actually true but it sure seems that way when you listen to the whole album.
That's another thing, there are singles throughout this record that stand on their own two feet very well but this is meant to be soaked in as a full album and that's something that you don't get every day anymore.
I miss full albums that you're supposed to be listening to as a whole so it's really good to have that again right now.
This is one of those records you want to have on vinyl so you can play it on the record player and really soak it in.
The tracks are filled with lush and dynamic instrumentation that come through colorful and alive as does the energy of the performances on the record.
It almost feels like some of these songs were recorded live on the floor just because the performances of the instruments feel like they're feeding off of each other half the time.
Either way, it definitely makes you want to go see this live in your face because if the energy captured on the record is this good then seeing it live must be awesome.
This also gets quite a great theatrical feel throughout the record and there are aspects about it that help paint vivid pictures in your head which makes this all the more fun.
With such a well-woven rock record, we wanted to have a sit down with The Conall Band to find out where this all came from and what might be coming up next.
Here's what happened.
Buzz Slayers: Essai: How did this release come about?
After the release of our first album, This Way’s Up! my bass player and I did a tour of a number of AAA radio stations in the Northeast and South-eastern States. Then Covid hit, ending the radio tour. During 2020 and 2022 I started to write and record new songs, 3 at a time, and released them as singles on Spotify. Towards the end of 2022 I had completed 9 songs, 3 unreleased, and we decided to put them all out on Essai. The album was called Essai, the French word for essay. My songs are stories, so Essai seemed like a good title!
Buzz Slayers: How did this all start for you as a band?
I started late. Earlier, in my late teens and early 20’s I played in a number of configurations in Cork, Ireland. On moving to NYC in 1983, I gave up music for over 20 years. After a divorce in 2008, and with the kids away in college, I moved back to NYC from where we had been living on Long Island.
Starting in 2010 I began playing again, initially at this one open mic, until early 2015. Fed up with the same venue, I decided to branch out. I am project focused. So, 2015 became the Year of the Open Mic. I played in around 40 different venues in NYC, Paris and Cork. 2016 was the Year of the Showcase. The plan was one showcase a month for 12 months. I completed it in 11 months. By this time I had written a few songs and was performing them live. 2017 became the Year of the Quarter. This plan was for 4 paid gigs, where I would play with other players, like a quarter. This was the first time playing my songs with drums and bass, and occasionally woodwinds. By now I had enough songs from a record.
Thanks to the flute player, John Ragusa, from the Year of the Quartet, I met his playing partner and producer, Hugh Pool. So 2018 became the Year of Recording. My bass player, Artie Greenidge, John Ragusa (woodwinds), Hugh Pool (guitars, engineering and production), and Hugh’s drummer, Keith Robinson. This was the first iteration of The Conall Band. We recorded 10 songs and put it out as This Way’s Up! Since then the band is the same, with the exception of the bass player. Artie left and was replaced by Charlie D, and for my recent live record, Ken Rich. We used additional session musicians for Essai, some of whom play in our live shows.
Buzz Slayers: What kind of things really inspire songs for you?
I’m primarily a story teller, in the tradition of the traveling troubadour. My songs tell stories from my loves and losses, as well as observations I have from people I meet along the way. I am interested in the human condition, and occasionally I might have something to say about the times we live in.
Buzz Slayers: This release has some great approaches to it! Can you give us some of your biggest influences musically?
I like a lot of music. Over the years I’ve loved all the great singer songwriters, from the early blues players (Robert Johnson Blind Willie McTell, Son House, Mississippi John Hurt,..), up to the ’70’s (Jim Croce, Joni Mitchell, James Taylor,…), and prog rock (Yes, Pink Floyd). I took the 80s off, and then discovered The Indigo Girls, and Texas - Townes Van Zandt, Guy Clark, Ray Wiley Hubbard, Hayes Carl, Todd Snider, James McMurtry,…) And Jazz (Weather Report, Jaco, …). Recently, The Mavericks.
I’m leaving out a lot! I grew up in a house where all of the family loved music. My first friends all loved music. I don’t remember a time when there wasn’t something new to listen to, or go and hear.
Buzz Slayers: What are you all doing when you're NOT working on music?
The Conall Band is a group of players who come together to record and play my songs. All of the players are full time musicians, including two who have recording studios. I, myself, do other things to support the music we create. I come from a technology and education background, and support our music from there.
I’ve been encouraged by the initial reaction to my music. I’ve charted on the AMA Radio charts, and broke through 100K streams in one year (2022) on Spotify. I’m currently working on our 4th record. This year we released a live record from a show we played at The Bitter End in NYC. Pat O’Connell & Friends Live at The Bitter End is currently only available on Bandcamp. I’m hopefully for a day in the future where I can support myself through my music.
Buzz Slayers: Who's in all your headphones right now?
The Band, Jim Croce, Wilco, Feist, The Avett Brother, Justin Townes Earle, John Prine, James McMurtry
Buzz Slayers: Are you all doing any live performances right now?
I play a monthly solo show at The AvenueUWS in NYC. We typically play an annual full band show at The Bitter End. I go to Nashville and Texas, around Austin, every year. Working with promoters to start getting gigs there.
Buzz Slayers: Do you record these at a big studio or do you have a home studio set-up?
We recorded in Excello Studios in Greenpoint, Brooklyn. Hugh Pool owns the studio, and in addition to all the computer gear, he was a serious, old school analogue environment. We record on 2” tape through vintage amps, and mix down, through vintage effects, through a 32 track mixing board, on to 1/2” stereo tapes. All music is mastered by Scott Hull at MasterDisk. I wanted the warm sound of tape for our records. The Live record, however, was done on ProTools, as that was what was available at the venue.
Buzz Slayers: What can your fans expect from you in the near future?
New music and more shows! I’ve learned that playing live is the best way to build a fan base. Also, collaborating with other artists helps too. Looking ahead to 2024, a new record and more shows around the country.
Buzz Slayers: Before we go, what would you like to say to fans of the music?
Thank you! Thank you!!! I never take my listeners for granted. Sometimes the songs have universal themes, and I love when I hear how a particular song resonates with a listener. There is so much to listen to, so much to do with your time. I truly appreciate everyone who comes to a show, who buys a CD, or listens on a platform.
Without fans, there is no music business! I’ll write and perform anyway, but it helps to play in front of a live audience and to have my music heard.