Niall Connolly has never shied away from his own artistry. In listening to his repertoire you’re unlikely to sense reluctance. Instead, the folk singer rushes headlong into his music, laying his soul bare for the world to witness. “In this house, if you wanna cry, you can cry,” he sings on his latest album, The Patience of Trees, out June 2. And with a shuddering breath, we believe him.
The Irish-born troubadour has been a steady presence in the New York City folk scene, telling his musical stories across the din of nondescript bars and Manhattan’s broad stages alike. At every Connolly gig audiences are ushered into his world of unflinching honesty and disarming resonance. Whether listening to him live or on recording, the listener is wrapped in a strange combination of isolation and warmth, a mix that leaves a profound effect: one of having been held and lonely at the same time. This is Connolly’s unique ability to transform his art into something capable of providing tangible comfort.
The album’s first single, “We Don’t Have to Talk About It”, approaches the topic of self-harm in this same manner. “I know you get tempted by the third rail late at night,” he sings, acknowledging and stripping the power away from one’s demons at the same time. The latest single, “It’s a Beautiful Life,” gives an unrelenting perspective of the struggles many of us endure and, ultimately, the love that attempts to pull us through. The song evokes the painful journey through mental health and offers a unique perspective of the collective’s ability to triumph by giving voice to our experiences.
“Out of the Light” feels like an offering at the altar of Leonard Cohen’s emotional legacy. Thoughtful and serene but also spare in its hints of loneliness as he observes “every kind of messy road that leads to love.” Similarly, “Orchids at the Supermarket” haunts like a Nick Drake ballad, making beauty out of brokenness. Yet despite the gentle presence of such ghosts, the presence of Connolly’s emotionality makes each song the kind of experience that only he can create.
The Patience of Trees is enriched by the presence of Connolly’s friends and collaborators, including Mick Flannery, Anna Tivel, E.W. Harris, Javier Mas, and Warren Malone. The arrangements of each track serve as an echo of their lyrical power, emphasizing the story at the center of each song. Expansively, the songs stretch out across the album to create a rich journey full of remarkable souls and powerful experiences. At once demanding and exquisitely comforting, The Patience of Trees takes us into our own depths and offers us solace.
“The clouds were forming question marks, like the sky was doubting me,” he sings in “A Cloud on the Summer Sun”. “I’ve got every right to be here, as much as everyone.” While his songs take us into the caverns of human struggle, likely to cause the sharp, stabbing breath of resonance as the days, weeks, years of tamping down our emotions burst to the surface, the underlying tenet of Connolly’s work is always hope. Aggressive fucking hope. No longer the lame figment to punk theology. His words and his music welcome us into a world where hope and kindness are the bravest of things. In his house, if we wanna cry, we can cry, but ultimately we will heal.
Reviewed by: Casee Marie
The Patience of Trees is available for preorder on Bandcamp.