Album Review: Clann Zu – Rua

January 1, 2009

Artist: Clann Zú

Album: Rua

Released: G7 Welcoming Committee, 2003

Reviewer: Robert Lennon – rjlennon@csbsju.edu

rua1

I have never heard another album like Rua. It is an extraordinary and unique album, bringing together Irish folk, electronica, and alternative rock music to create amazing music. In terms of lyrics, the band’s singer Declan De Barra provides some of the most sincere and powerful lyrics I’ve yet to come across. This combination leads to an album I can keep coming back to again and again.

There is a lot of musical experimentation in this album. The second track, “Five Thousand More” combines a heavy trip-hop beat with both violin and the bodhrán, a traditional Irish percussion instrument. Even on one of the ‘simpler’ tracks “Everyday”, the band works with a piano at certain points, and the violin, played by Australian Russel Fawcus, cries out along with Declan’s lyrics. It is a testament to the skill of these musicians that they are able to balance all of these musical tools, and work them together so that they work together as a coherent whole. 

The lyrics of the album are well written and delivered with strength. The lyrics switch easily between Irish and English, showing Waterford-born Declan’s roots. The themes range from dispossession, exile, and despair, to finding courage and fighting the powerful. But no matter the subject, Declan’s voice is the key piece. His voice has a range, not just of how high or low he can go, but in emotion and intensity. The first track “Words For Snow” begins slowly, with Declan somewhat softly singing. But as the song progresses and the drums kick in, his voice picks up speed and strength. He sings about the streets of a foreign city he’s trapped in, and all the saints he asks for help. As the song continues he starts yelling, ending with “for Christ’s sake get me out of here! God of all sick things get me the **** out of here! Get me the **** out of here! Get me the **** out of here! Release me!” A cry of despair in a land far from home. 

In the seventh track, “Ri Ra” (Irish for ‘uprising’), the focus is on standing up for one’s self. “No compromising with your life, there is only one who writes the ending and the script to the Ri Ra!” Declan’s voice resembles the rising up he exhorts the listener to, as his voice goes up into a nice falsetto. Declan’s voice can be reasonably called another instrument in the band, one that is just as important as the others. And it is used as well as one could hope for, working with the music, reflecting and amplifying it. 

Rua is an album that does not come along very often. It is sincere, without being naïve. It is dramatic, without being pretentious. It is powerful, without being overwhelming. It combines several far-flung musical styles in ways that I have yet to come across again. This album is an excellent choice for anyone looking for a unique sound. The day I first listened to it, I knew I wouldn’t forget it.

Stand Out Tracks: All That You’ve Ever Known, Everyday, Ri Ra, Lights Below

Clann Zú was
· Benjamin Andrews – Electric Guitar
· Russell Fawcus – Electric Violin, Keyboards
· Declan de Barra – Vocals, Bodhrán
· Liam Andrews – Bass
· Lach Wooden – Sound Manipulation

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