Recorded on the same Georgian street where James Joyce dwelt and recorded with collaborator and fellow musician Christophe Capewell, It is a wonder collection of fervent and ruminative tracks with songwriting of a caliber that would certainly meet the approval of the meticulous Joyce himself.
According to Fia Rua himself the idea behind the album was to create “a more intimate, atmospheric album with electric guitar, piano and strings, allowing Fia to engage with his lower vocal register” and it certainly achieves this and then some.
There are ten tracks on the new album which range from the fictional to the personal, from the contemplative to the hopeful and each has their place on the record and serve a purpose to complete the narrative. There are no fillers on this record but there is certainly variation and a variation on themes which gives the whole thing a feeling of being a very grown up and a very complete work.
The album opens with the beautifully haunting “Church Song” featuring stunning backing vocals from the wonderfully talented Sweeney Lee.
It reminds one of a darker time in Irish social history and showcases Fia’s ability to write a song with the emotional maturity and thought provoking artistry he shares with some of the greats of Irish music.
The second and title track “Behind the Grey” comes from Fia’s daughter and her imaginary world “behind the grey” and the artist looking “through a young child’s eyes to another world. It is beautifully personal and full of a fathers love. One of my favorite lyrics of the album comes from this track “She’s bold as brass, she knows no border. She wants to go, before we get older.”
I love the “Ballad of Tony Dunne” . I think it highlights Fia’s ability to write about what he sees and as a fellow Irishman I think we can all relate to the “Tony Dunne” character. Sure every bar has one.
The sublime banjo on “Hard as an Angel” is the beating heart of the track underscored by angelic strings and fused with Fia’s unique and hard edged vocals.
The Clongorey Evictions tells the tale of one of the many horrific incidents during the dark times of the famine in Ireland when in November 1886 the River Liffey flooded, destroying the turf and potatoes that the tenants in the Bog of Allen area survived on. Unable to pay their rent and refusing to leave their dwellings, the tenants were eventually burned out of their homes by the landlord and the police. Fia’s voice and passion shines a light upon the subject that had been quenched over time. It is a musical story telling of the tradition of Luke Kelly at his best and Fia’s soulfulness telling of the tale truly brings the past alive.
“We bloom in the Rain” again showcases Fia’s masterful vocals and song writing abilities. It is charged with an optimism for the future and for things to come and features some wonderful fiddle and harmonica which adds to the atmospheric qualities of the track.
Speaking of atmospheres, the next track is beautifully so. Bright Star written by the incredible Pearce McGloughlin leads the listener on a delectable musical journey down the inner sanctum of the heart and soul. A three minute gem.
I love “Blood on my Knife”. It’s deliciously dark and tells the story of a fictitious character (When talking to Fia about this track he said he had to explain the darkness of the track to his parents and that it was a purely fictitious character. Fia didn’t have blood on his knife just like Johnny Cash never actually shot a man in Reno “just to watch him die”) who is at the end of his tether and has lost all hope for a future he no longer feels a part of. Again it’s Fia’s voice that makes this track. It’s dark and menacing and adds the colour needed for a track like this one. I love tracks like this one.
The Hand that I Seek is a sweet lonely tune that full of a sweet despair and longing for something that is out of reach while the final track on the album “Reach out for the Light” tells you that despite the the inner turmoil inside you, you have to look forward, forget the past and “Reach out for The light”. It is a great sing along way to end the album. An anthem-like ending to a roller coaster of emotional battering that is “Behind the Grey”
This is Fia Rua at his very best. His vocals and poetic artistry amalgamate in a mixture of emotive heartfelt songs and blistering ballads that entertain and inspire. And at its very source is a writer born of this land with the traditions and qualities of the great musicians, story tellers, bards, and writers that came before him.
Make you proud to be Irish I tell ya.
Behind the Grey is available on all platforms now. For more information Click on Fia’s name at the top of the page.