O’Connell & Love announce their second studio album
Will You Be There?
out on Friday 26 November 2021 on Mountmellick Music
Larry Love, of South London outlaws Alabama 3, is an Ivor Novello Award-winning songwriter, best known for Woke Up This Morning, theme song of The Sopranos and its film prequel, The Many Saints Of Newark, released in September 2021.
In O’Connell & Love, “Alabama 3 singer Larry Love and songwriting partner Brendan O'Connell team up again, and variety is the spice of their musical life …. there's definitely more than a hint of magic in the air.” (Daily Mirror)
Larry and Brendan first collaborated on Alabama 3’s debut album Exile On Coldharbour Lane (1997, One Little Indian). Their first album together was Ghost Flight (2006, One Little Indian), released under the name Robert Love and credited by Kris Kristofferson as “one of the finest debut albums I've ever heard”.
Their first release as O'Connell & Love was Minesweeping (2015, Mountmellick Music), an eclectic box of songwriting treasures that was well received by fans and critics alike.
“Larry Love of Alabama 3 and Brendan O’Connell have been making music for years, and Minesweeping is evidence that the collaboration works… This is a strong album that would boost anyone’s music collection. “ (Press Association & Regional Press)
“When you get a great vocalist, brilliant song writing, interesting musicians and a range of influences coming together like this, the whole really is greater than the sum of the already considerable parts.“ (Pennyblackmusic)
Over the last 6 years, O'Connell & Love have continued to hone their songwriting skills, and taken their time in crafting 12 captivating new tracks. They could not be prouder to release Will You Be There?, showcasing the extent to which they have developed as a songwriting duo.
Love: “We were determined to spend the time these songs needed. As with Minesweeping, this album has taken a long time because we needed to step away, give it some time then come back to these tracks. In some ways lockdown and the pandemic helped with this as we were originally intending to release the album in summer 2020. We have smashed it all up and rebuilt it multiple times and feel it’s much better for this reworking.”
Jointly-produced by Brendan O’Connell, bringing his love of Latin and Spanish guitar, and his Irish trad session roots, and legendary dance producer Wizard (a.k.a. Greg Fleming, famed for his work with the Chemical Brothers , Dizzee Rascal, X-Press 2, Wiley, DJ Fresh, M.I.A./Diplo, Lyza J, Chase & Status and a host of other dancefloor luminaries), Will You Be There? displays such a range of styles and influences that you can never quite pinpoint the genre.
O’Connell: “This album has more edge to it, more sophisticated arrangements, changes of style and tempo. There are a few straightforward catchy tracks, but most are far more complex, revealing themselves over time and drawing you in deeper with each listen.”
Joining O'Connell & Love on Will You Be There? are featured guest vocalists June Miles-Kingston (backing vocals Fun Boy Three, The Communards, Big Country), Stephanie Clift, Sheena Ross (Alabama 3) and guest musicians Gill Morley (Soul II Soul), John Eacott (Loose Tubes, Test Dept, Stereo MCs, Goldie) and Fernando di Marco (Aca Seca, Vento em Madeira, Thomas Clausen Brazilian Quartet)
There are lyrics about the desperate risks taken by refugees, the division and polarization that splits society down the middle, the need to stand up and be counted, the tragedy of addiction, the end of an affair, … but there is humour too, and tenderness, a feeling of joy and a reminder to savour each moment. Combine all that with a compelling, rhythmic swing and this album is truly uplifting.
1. Will You Be There? is the question that opens and runs throughout the track. Will you have the courage to stand up and be counted or
“Will you hand in your hopes, saying brother this is too much of a hassle?”
This track emerged in a bar in Barcelona, watching a news report on kids living amongst the destruction of Aleppo, Syria. Apart from the haunting backing vocals from O'Connell, reminiscent of the wailing in Ghost Town by The Specials, there is a Latin feel to the song. an insistent Spanish guitar line from the onset and magic interplay between fiddle and trumpet in the instrumental section.
2. Hurry Home opens with a rolling low locomotive rhythm, the pulse and tempo of steel wheels on an iron rail, punctuated by sparkling acoustic guitar licks. This track references Willie Nelson’s 1996 album Spirit.
It’s about a new exodus, the migrant caravan from South America to the United States border,
“...are you riding the beast dreaming Guadalajara dreams?”
and about desperate risks taken by desperate people.
“and the river, so unforgiving, even the smugglers get double crossed.
You can pay the ferryman, but you can still get lost. So don’t pay the ferryman.”
The lyrics have a barbed twist at the end – who knows how these stories turn out?
3. If Love Is All You Got takes us deep into the urban landscape of a city night,
“Cold comfort under city lights broken dreams on a Friday night”
It’s about lonely dark places where it takes more than just love to survive.
“If love is all you got, baby that ain’t a lot
‘Cos what you got ain’t got you anywhere.
If love is all you got, you put it back in the box
You should have put a sticker on it,
Fragile: Handle with care.”
It’s kind of like Mark Knopfler guitar meets Fleetwood Mac with a gospel R&B vibe, and with June Miles-Kingston on backing vocals.
4 I Got A Woman is straightforward catchy country rock ‘n’ roll, a change of mood and humour from the opening three tracks. We hear the bullshit of a barfly as he brags his way around the bars of the town, only to go home alone as always.
This song is a nod to Ray Charles’ - but without his panache and swagger - and partly inspired by Roxy Music’s In Every Dream Home A Heartache.
“If being lonely was only the preserve of the elected few
You gotta admit, listening to my bullshit
I’m a member of an illustrious crew”
This song has a humorous, happy vibe with a sweet melody and a foot tapping rhythm, and with Stephanie Clift and June Miles-Kingston giving sweet harmonies.
5. The Belle Of Clare has a strong Irish feel, with Brendan O’Connell on the banjo and mandolin, and soaring fiddles towards the end. It has echoes of The Pogues meets Bob Dylan.
O'Connell was inspired to write this song while playing at an Irish trad session in County Clare, after a conversation about the heartbreak of those left behind when so many of the young local people moved overseas for a better life.
“With my dreams she went flying in a silver jet plane
And all my blue sky thinking won’t bring her back again”
In this song, Larry Love pines for his lost Belle of Clare, alone with his bittersweet memories now that she has left him
“Can’t seem to forget that Tuesday night when you kicked off like dynamite
In that dead end bar behind the jail…”
“Everybody knows everybody can see that’s the way it goes, now it’s time gentlemen please”
6. Riddles In The Sand is a retort to Bob Dylan’s Just Like A Woman - but in this song, “I can break just like a man”. It’s a boot-stomping trip through the endless wrong choices made by an addict. Temptation always wins no matter how heavenly the alternative.
“I slipped the hit inside the watch on my wrist
Dropped out of sight like a ship in the mist
I cursed myself because I know we should have kissed
Instead I held onto the handcart to hell.”
For all that, it has a cheery melody and rhythm, a Latin country feel.
7. Don’t Turn Me Away is straight-talking, a simple spotlight on a dark stage. Written in an empty chicken shop in Streatham on a rainy November evening,
“Here I go again, frail as a feather in November rain”
this song is about the end of an affair, one last throw of the dice to try and salvage love that has slipped away. Duetting here with the wonderful Stephanie Clift, Love shows a sweet and tender side.
There is a feel of Nick Drake in this song, and a Celtic, Spanish style reminiscent of some Van Morrison. The melody, like the words, has a haunting, frail quality and builds up to an urgency towards the end in a beautiful, soaring instrumental and chorus.
8. You’re Gonna Need Someone references the death in 2012 of the Tetrapak heiress. No matter how much money you have, we all need help and love.
“One day you’re gonna need someone
You’re just like anyone”
The music has a bluesy, Stonesey feel to it. Love’s deep gravelly baritone works to great effect, contrasting with the gospel chorus sweetness of Stephanie Clift, June Miles-Kingston and Sheena Ross.
9. When You Were The Moonlight is about the flame that got away, opportunities missed, imaginary outcomes. As Love dreams of rekindling a lost love and remembers
“When you were the moonlight I followed down the highway”
Musically, this track is an oddball on the album. It’s a complex song with key changes and variations in time signature – inspired in part by one of O’Connell’s songwriting heroes, Jaques Brel.
10. Let The Music Set You Free celebrates the healing power of music. This song has a Brazilian carnival atmosphere, to get everybody dancing and forgetting all the divisions and illusions caused by extreme political ideas and Internet rabbit holes. When people are dancing, let’s face it, they’re not usually talking.
“Divided is the Kingdom, poisoned by lies and by blame
Crying out for an answer
We’re cursed to go dancing in the rain
Let The Music Set You Free”
This track has a cajon Latin shuffle throughout, and a joyous up tempo, distorted trumpet solo.
11. If I Don’t Get Lost is another slice of male soul-searching from Love. Influenced by the late, great John Prine with Bonnie Raitt – it’s about wanderlust, and about Love exorcising his demons.
“Maybe St Christopher’s got a hold on me
A thousand miles I’d walk to be free”
About going out into the world to find yourself before you can come home.
“If I don’t get lost, how you gonna find me?”
The music here has a Mediterranean feel, and a Rumba Flamenco rhythm.
12. It’s So Good To Be Alive has a hypnotic circular guitar progression that could run around forever. This song is in spirit of Lou Reed’s Perfect Day and Louis Armstrong’s What A Wonderful World
It’s about the need to make the most of every moment because we never know what’s coming next.
The album ends on a high note, with an uplifting chorus celebrating the joy of life:
“It’s so good to be alive, baby,
I’m so glad I spent this time with you,
Hold my hand, ain’t no need to be lonely
On the last day of this wonderful, wonderful world!
This could be the last day, this could be the last day.”