So here it is – the difficult second album. The man from the Marble City, Jeremy Hickey, or as most know him R.S.A.G., must have felt some pressure on his shoulders in the making of his second album Be It Right Or Wrong. His 2008 debut Organic Sampler was received with open arms by the music press and fans alike, earning Hickey a Choice Prize nomination and rake of reviews containing only the most effusive of praise. But any pressure that Hickey did feel appears to only have served as motivation because he was assembled an album which builds on the strengths of his first, while papering over any cracks with a clear emphasis on strong vocals and a slow, deliberate songwriting structure.
It’s always interesting to hear albums composed with one singular thought in mind. And, being a multi-instrumentalist, this is the case with R.S.A.G. Hickey is responsible for every lick, every beat and every intonation on Be It Right Or Wrong. Not only that, the album comes from something of a skewed point of view because of the fact that he is most well known as being a drummer, and these songs are written squarely from the drummer’s stool.
The rhythm section is central to this album. Hickey’s drum lines are written with the bass in mind, and vice versa, so the result of this is a unique and pleasantly meandering bed for the rest of the mix to fall upon. First single ‘The Roamer’ is an example of this, as the guitar and bass seem to trade roles and take turns playing lead as a gentle percussion and Hickey’s smooth vocals follow close behind. Hickey’s influences are apparent, too. ‘The Mess We’re In’ evokes memories of the Talking Heads and there are even traces of some Elvis-style rock and roll on ‘The Mercy Plea’, while ‘Hotwire The Heart’ bounces along with the sort of bass line you’d associate with old Madness tracks.
This isn’t a covers album though, far from it. Hickey doesn’t stray too far away from what he’s comfortable with on Be It Right Or Wrong but, importantly, none of the songs run into each other. There is a vibrancy and a freshness here and those elements, coupled with Hickey’s clear vision and single-minded approach, have combined to put together one of the best Irish albums you’ll hear in 2010.