Rhob Cunningham is no secret to those familiar with the independent music scene in Ireland. While some may not know the name, a lot of people will recognise his face because Cunningham has been gigging non-stop in the various pubs, clubs and music halls across the country for many a year now. In that time, he has collected enough songs to fill 10 albums but it is only now that Cunningham has assembled his first – a 12-song collection of spry, earthy melodies.
Our Little Secrets is the adopted name of Cunningham’s debut, a revolving door of musical cohorts including (but not limited to) the likes of Gavin Glass and Duckworth Lewis Method’s Keith Farrell in various production capacities, as well as cameos by Cathy Davey and Lisa Hannigan in some of the songs. But make no mistake: Cunningham is the man behind the curtain.
The Dublin native steeps these songs in inviting warm hues, his honeyed vocals the perfect companion to the subtle arrangements. This is immediately evident in album opener -Roses Song (From Harm)’, a soulful piece of folk-influenced storytelling with a steady momentum. -Daylight’ and -Fallin’ in Line’ spotlight Cunningham’s knack for pacing his songs to a rousing climax while, conversely, -Naturesway’ is a reflective folky number which stays within itself, detailing a lyrical finesse and a showing musical restraint when it’s needed.
The sheer number of top class musicians involved with this album allows a range of musical detours, like -Our Dilemma’ – an unabashed country song full of optimism (‘I don’t know why you’re complainin’, there are people in deeper holes than yours, somewhere the sun is shining, raining light on your illness and your cures’) – but -Mornin’ Call’, with its powerful 1970s swagger, is perhaps the best example of this.
It’s all well and good to have the ideas Cunningham has for this album but it’s another thing to deliver on them. The music combines beautifully throughout the record and the occasional surprises, such as Hannigan’s gorgeous vocals on -Good or Bad Thing’, serve not to distract but to fortify. The assured complexity and a series of thoughtful, unerringly tuneful songs goes to show that, if it wasn’t already, the secret is well and truly out now.