With the revitalisation of the singer-songwriter in recent times, the genre may have found another artist of real substance in Belfast-based musician Robyn G Shiels. A brooding disciple of blues-orientated, lyric-driven folk ballads, Shiels’ distinct, crackly vocal perfectly compliments his somber, thought-provoking lyrics on this highly accomplished debut. A high-octane performer in the Nick Cave mould, Shiels routinely indulges in his dark side, often forging a foreboding atmosphere of self-conflict, melancholia and despair. Much like his assumed muse however, he delivers his material with a raw energy that’s both assertive and uncompromising, while his appreciation of both melody, and musical variation, become more apparent as the record progresses.
Although dreary, downbeat numbers like ‘Tender is the Night’, and ‘This Deathly Charm’ allude to the album’s general gloomy ambience, the presence of subtly melodic piano-based tracks like ‘The First to Know’ and ‘The Last Waltz’ provide ample moments of light. Shiels demonstrates his effervescent, if sometimes abrupt, playing style on vigorous, blues-based numbers like the title track and ‘When Love it Starts Leaving’ while the ingenious simplicity of the deliciously dark parable ‘Hello Death’ highlights his ability as both a lyricist and a composer. Stoically nonconformist, what Shiels may currently lack in artistic presence he more than makes up for in sheer, unadulterated spirit, while his displayed knowledge of musical arrangement is indicative of a true talent. A thoroughly unyielding debut.