Review Archive

'Cenotaph Tapes' by John Carroll – high calibre sentiment and expression

(April 28, 2014)

When I first heard John Carroll’s music I immediately identified with the calibre of both its John Carroll Cenotaph Tapessentiment and expression. His new album 'Cenotaph Tapes' continues to offer a combination of carefully crafted songs with lasting melodies, faultless lyrics, richly delivery vocals and a masterful touch on guitar. If anything, this time the lyrics are sharper, their essence more heartfelt.

Starting out from Limerick, Ireland, John has travelled far and now resides in Hangzhou, China. These songs certainly reflect the roots of his musical tradition, but along the way they examine the road travelled and the place he now finds himself.

From the outset songs like the soulful longing in ‘Road Prayer’ and ‘If I’d Known’ slide you instantly into his songwriting with words that cut like knives, phrases filled with pathos and stories to make you feel at one with the powerful images the songs evoke. Throughout, the lyrics pull no punches and tell tales exactly how John sees them, driving home their significance, however hard the message might be.

As with his previous work, the substance of this album builds on John’s songwritng. Take in the power of: “Send a prayer to the road, jack your gypsy deals. Let it be the envoy for love upon you wheels” or perhaps reflect on: “I’ve been losing touch with home, and it’s a different kind of death. ... the faces that I once called friends that barely contact me.” There’s no sign of a filler on 'Cenotaph Tapes', each song adds more and the album grows in stature. Listen to the echoes of memory held within‘The Ornament’, the mournful splendour of ‘Greyhound Wears a Muzzle’ or the laid-bare truth inside ‘Desperation Looms’.

The musicians on 'Cenotaph Tapes' are John Carroll (guitar/vocals/midi) Ma Qing Yuan (piano) Zhou Da Yun (cello) Zhang Bo (violin) and Lee Davies (melodica). 'Cenotaph Tapes' is available on Bandcamp and iTunes. You can find John Carroll and his music here: carrolljohn.bandcamp.com

 … and should John decide to take a trip from China to the UK I’ll be first in line for the first gig.

Reviewer: Tim Carroll

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