Being in one of the world’s most fanatically adored groups can be a blessing and a curse. Between touring the world and playing mammoth sets of expected songs, an artist’s creative process can take a hit.
Speaking to Roger O’Donnell last month, Clash got a candid insight into how time away from the kings of dry ice, as well as the moody landscape of rural Devon, inspired this, his latest release. Take a dive into O’Donnell’s back catalogue, be it the Minimoog jammed ‘The Truth is Me’ or the sparse ‘Piano Formations,’ and you’ll get an appreciation for O’Donnell’s less is more approach.
It’s key to ‘2 Ravens’ pastoral appeal, eight immersive and somewhat melancholic numbers that still evoke a great sense of calm. It’s a reflective record, made during a pensive season, British winter. Led by some classical piano work and strings – side one cello, side two string quartet – the record was originally planned as a purely instrumental project before the inclusion of Vita And The Woolf vocalist Jennifer Pague helped solidify the album into its final form.
On paper, the marriage of English atmospherics and Americana might sound a bit off, but Pague’s visual lyricism and haunting vocals make a perfect accompaniment to the arrangements. Nature and its inspiring power is, after all, a universal language. Appearing on half the tracks, Pague’s contributions help push the record along after it has wistfully taken the listener elsewhere for a few waltzes. It’s a welcome balance that never overpowers the record’s gentle touch.
‘I’ll Say Goodnight,’ the album’s finisher, showcases this collaboration best of all. O’Donnell’s repetitive piano line anchoring the song as the strings swell around it, Pague’s voice soaring upwards. It’s a proper good tearjerker and will keep us introspective lot out there happy. With ‘2 Ravens’, O’Donnell has confidently created what he aimed to, a thoughtful record, one inspired by his home, and time spent recharging his creative batteries.
It’s like getting lost on a long walk during a time we all wish we could.
Words: Sam Walker-Smart
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