LOWmountain presented its second album, DNA, to diehard fans on a stormy night in March in De Barra’s Folk Club, Clonakilty. Close to 100 people contributed to the electric atmosphere while they joined the band, full of nervous energy, listening to the opening act Elly O’Keeffe who wowed the crowd.
Elly O’Keeffe, with her carefully crafted vocals, had the crowd hypnotised from the first note. She has a great stage presence and seems to be at one with her guitar. She is a solo artist but was joined by backing vocalist Carrie McKeown on some tracks.
LOWmountain took to the stage at 10.30pm and it was not hard to see why they have been described as born storytellers.
They played their new album, DNA, as it appears on the CD and these original tracks don’t shy away from the pain of a broken heart or the silent ecstasy of a gentle moment.
Self-placed in the genre of bare-bone simplicity, LOWmountain is made up of trio Deirdre Archbold, Alan Tobin and Niall O’Driscoll.
If it’s possible to tell stories of moods and emotions, then that’s what LOWmountain is all about especially when it comes to the new album DNA. The title says it all. This music is from the core. It is personal, definitive and unique.
DNA explores the delicacy of relationships. The album delves into the most intimate moments of love and loss, feelings that Deirdre thinks people will connect. There is a refreshing and sometimes heartbreakingly honest quality to many of the songs. Everybody has experiences of love and loss and Niall thinks that tapping into these emotions and expressing them in music is the important part.
Alan has come up with the phrase ‘bare bone simplicity’ to encapsulate what LOWmountain is all about, a belief in having good songs that can withstand being stripped down to near nothing, placing the emphasis on melody, lyrics and a good honest delivery.
To Deirdre, that means that the songs don’t hide behind huge productions. This is very true; with pure talent firmly at the helm the band does not fall back on special effects or over-the-top marketing.
With strong melodies that stand up on their own, lyrics that are hauntingly beautiful and a stage presence that only the Irish can master, LOWmountain’s style is one that will be hard to copy.
Their music is predominantly played on acoustic instruments, which tends to get them officially categorised as folk or perhaps ‘alternative country’. With just two guitars and two vocals at the live shows there’s no room to do anything by halves and this band is proof that with the right amount of effort, success is possible.
LOWmountain has enjoyed a slow-burning, smouldering success that has seen them invited to appear on the popular Other Voices TV series, perform frequently on local and national radio, and travel as far afield as the Czech Republic in 2010 and 2011. They headlined at the Acoustic and Literary Stage at the Liss Ard Festival in summer 2012 and since then their fan base has grown steadily from mostly a West Cork base.
The band is delighted that people have been looking forward to the release of the new record but of course that also means that they felt obliged to reach a certain standard with it. And reach it they did.
Since the decline of the huge record companies and the increased popularity of social media, it is a more level playing field especially for smaller, up-and-coming acts wanting to get their music out in the world – but the problem is, it’s also a much bigger field. With this in mind it is refreshing to find a band that is passionate about music, performing and creating.
LOWmountain was born with just two members Alan and Niall, around the latter’s kitchen table in 2008. Deirdre joined the group after doing some harmonies for a gig in 2009 and has never looked back. The whole thing has been unusually organic and has grown of its own accord with no obvious planning.
The original songs usually start out as individual projects before being presented to the group for appraisal and arrangement. Often, arrangements grow out of the recording process after being ‘LOWmountainised’.
The fact that the album name DNA is made up of the trio’s initials was pure serendipity. It was certainly not the main reason for choosing DNA as a title. The band likes the implication that the songs have similar traits to those commonly associated with DNA – ‘they’re very personal, they’re from deep within us, and they’re unique to us.’ It is also clever and witty even if it was a happy coincidence.
As music for DNA emerged over time, it seems – by happenstance more than design – that each member of the band was in their own way exploring different elements of love, loss and the everyday realities of life. The result is a heartfelt, contemplative record that aims to be as cathartic for the listener as it has been for LOWmountain to make.
DNA was, for the most part, written and recorded over a two-year period between January 2011 and January 2013.
There are no immediate plans for a third album, but there are certainly a couple of projects in the pipeline, although the band is keeping tight-lipped for the moment.
LOWmountain has great stage presence with some great inter-song banter contrasting with some of the rather melancholic lyrics. It is their raw talent and ability to connect with the crowd that had the audience hanging on every note.
DNA has an almost seamless flow to it, and is an album to be listened to again and again, and if you want the experience of real musical intimacy check out LOWmountain live.
DNA is available for download from usual online sources or on CD from Plugd Records in Cork and The Time Traveller’s Bookshop, Skibbereen.
(Original text published in The Southern Star 20 April 2013 and online at http://www.southernstar.ie/Lifestyle/Music-is-in-their-DNA-18042013.htm)