Fergal Nash – On A Constant Roll

 Fergal Nash – On A Constant Roll

Fergal Nash – On A Constant Roll – Album Review

You can hear that classic singer/songwriter vibe in Fergal Nash as his upcoming album On A Constant Roll (Oct. 27th) starts up with “Walking Tall.”  I can get behind what I’m hearing well enough…he’s got that light-Rock vibe that took over in the late 90s with acts like Counting Crows and Matchbox 20, which shifted into the underground scene as time progressed through bands like Black Lab and Athlete.  You’ll find no real objections from me when it comes to any of that.  It might not be what’s typically on my playlists these days, I might not be able to argue that Fergal is recreating the wheel, but there’s no doubt that he knows his way around what makes a song connect, and the sincerity required to make the magic happen.  “Walking Tall” feels a bit on the cautious/careful side when it comes to how he sings the verses perhaps, but I feel like we really hear him connect to the chorus and get the best out of what he can bring to his songs.  You can feel the desire to make music in this Limerick, Ireland-based artist, and that counts for a whole lot in my world…it’s clear to me that Fergal WANTS to do what he’s doing in entertaining you through his songs, and that means something in my opinion.  Ultimately, he’s working with a fairly timeless sound on “Walking Tall” when it comes right down to it, and I think that’ll certainly help get his music out there around the globe overall.  This is his fourth record from what I’ve learned, and from the title, you can assume he’s been On A Constant Roll.  I think it’s safe to say he’s on his way up still, and with the quality of his songwriting, it’s merely a matter of exposure and a matter of time – the more people that get a chance to listen to Nash’s music, the more will climb aboard his bandwagon.

If I had to judge him by songs like “Spite Doesn’t Matter,” I might have a slightly different opinion.  What I’m personally hearing, is the sound of a singer that’s still got some room to really push himself to the next level.  For my fellow Canadians out there, you’ll recognize the kind of approach that Fergal’s taken to the microphone as being reminiscent of Neil Osborne in 54-40…which kind of yields a mixed result.  On the one hand, it’s clear that Fergal can sing and he’s got the right tones to get the job done – and on the other hand, his energy might be a bit too laidback that the conviction in the material feels like it’s lacking a bit of that confidence we need to convince us of the passion behind the words, music, and melody.  I’ve got no real objections to the songwriting – it’s sound, it’s solid – but take the transition into the chorus and consider what I’ve been saying…that’s where you wanna hear Nash feeling the moment the most, and I’m not quite sure that’s what we’re hearing.  Fergal has been putting out his music professionally since 2013 with the release of his debut album Take It Over from what I’ve read – so at this point in his career, I think we wanna hear Fergal stepping to the microphone & seizing his moment with full confidence – he’s got every reason to believe in what he does; he can sing, he writes a quality tune, the musicianship surrounding him is great.  I do like the hooks in the chorus and feel like that’s where we get the best out of Nash on this particular tune…he’s strengthened by the backing vocals in that part of the song, but it works and sounds good even if it might still need a bit more oomph at the end of the day.  It’s an interesting choice to have put out there as the single in my opinion…I’d assume that it’s been chosen more for the positive message it’s projecting and the strength of its main hooks more-so than the results we hear from point-A to point-B.  It ain’t a bad tune by any stretch of the imagination, but I feel like we already heard a stronger performance from the man on “Walking Tall.”

There’s no place quite like home is there?  Fergal draws on his childhood memories and nostalgia as he roams through “Healing Curraghchase” and creates strong lyrical imagery that we can see as he sings.  It’s another track that really shows how well he connects with the main hooks in his material and gets the best out of himself in those spots of his songs…and even though the verses he designs are more typically low-key in the energy you’ll find, the best advice I would give to the man is that he’s still gonna need to give those parts of his music the same level of conviction & confidence to reach that next level.  I feel like you get a bit of that at the very start of “Healing Curraghchase” as it begins, then it might dip a little this way or that way slightly as the song progresses, but it’s a bit closer to where he’d want to be than what we experienced in the verses of “Spite Doesn’t Matter” just prior.  As I’ve said many times on these pages of ours, if you’re lucky enough, one moment can rescue an entire song in certain instances – and I feel like when you reach the warmth of the main hook in “Healing Curraghchase” around the 2:40 mark, Fergal gives this song the chance it needed.  That’s a bit of a lengthy journey to get there, and we really only get this moment through the song’s most gripping part once, but it still occupies about a quarter of “Healing Curraghchase” overall, and that could prove to be enough.  The magic you wanna hear from Nash resides in that spot – you’ll hear it – I don’t think anyone could miss it.  As for the rest, it builds slowly, but it’s effective songwriting & structure…as long as the payload is eventually delivered, which it is, I don’t feel like it’s too much to ask of listeners to stick with considering the lyrical imagery is so strong.  That being said, it’s also crucial to recognize the main strengths of a song’s appeal too…you never wanna hide that for very long.  After you’ve heard the song and know what’s coming up ahead, it makes shakier moments like around the 2:10 mark take a bit longer to get through, know what I mean?  Ultimately, redemption comes for “Healing Curraghchase” within its finale, raising the stakes all-around.

I think people would be astounded to hear how much Fergal’s music has in common with 54-40 overall – it’s the most consistent comparison for both how Nash sings and the melodies inside of his songs.  Which is really amazing to me.  I’m not saying that 54-40 hasn’t reached around the globe, I know that they have…but is that really the main influence on Nash’s music?  I’d be very surprised if it was, or if they got that much exposure to the band way over there in Ireland…but I suppose it’s not impossible.  I think it’s more to do with the fact that similar sounds tend to grow organically in different areas by complete coincidence, simple and plain.  “Crawl To The Shrine” could easily be a 54-40 song and no one here in Canada would bat an eye – so if I was Nash and thinking about where to tour, he’s already got a built-in audience over here across the pond, I can guarantee that.  There’s a stronger performance at work here though, which I dig.  To prove that I’m THAT guy that always wants everything at once, I’d tell ya that I probably like the three songs prior more for the writing and the hooks, but if we’re talking about performance, I think “Crawl To The Shrine” gets us closer to that confidence & conviction we wanna hear from Nash.  Only he’s gonna know why that is.  It could be that he’s more into the song, it could be that he knows this particular tune inside & out compared to others, it could just be the right fit for the energy he brings to his music…like I said, he’ll know what it is better than any of our theories would theorize…but whatever it is, I’d seek to replicate that.  I feel like it makes a significant difference in the accessibility and appeal…Fergal sounds like he’s really into this tune, and as a result, we are too.

There are some incredible positives within “Snapshot” for sure, even if I think this is the kind of track that is always going to sound better being played live than we could experience inside of a recording.  I’m really neither here nor there with the verses…in fact, I was fairly sure on my first listen that I might have even tossed “Snapshot” right outta the lineup as it started up.  That being said, when you hear how Fergal nails the chorus when he sings “it’s just a snapshot in time that tells the story of my life” you have to acknowledge the brilliance of his performance.  There are several moments that work in that regard – you’ll get a more minor hook even earlier as he sings “oh I’m gonna find my way” – that’s perfection too.  Even though I personally don’t love the verses, I’d readily acknowledge they’re also one of the more universally accessible moments too – in general, I’d expect the masses will really dig on every part of “Snapshot.”  You see?  I’m nothing but fair, and I know quite often I can be the anomaly opinion based on how much music I’ve listened to over the years.  I suppose I just feel like the speed he’s singing at is extremely demanding in the verses and sounds like it’s continually giving him a run for his money.  When it comes to the strength of his performance in the main hooks however, or the confidence he puts on display in singing this song from start to finish, I’d definitely put “Snapshot” right up there with some of the best of the best on this record.  You can hear the personality, interest, and passion running rampantly through the chorus of this song – Nash does an exceptional job singing it and the music seems to be beaming his energy right back at him, each element inspiring the other to be at its best.  Fergal sure knows how to create an effective hook…that’s his strongest asset, in my opinion.  I guarantee this song is even better played from the stage though…and quite likely on its way to being a fan favorite.

I’ll never get over the fact that when it comes to the art of making music, a simple “oh oh oh” can overshadow and outweigh all the effort that is put into lyricism, but that’s the reality and that’s the case when it comes to Nash’s title track.  All-in-all, it’s a good song…really well balanced and performed – there’s not much if anything that I’d change here.  Lyrically, maybe…I feel like there are a few spots in this lineup of tunes where you can feel Fergal reaching for a rhyme more than what it is he really wants to say, but that’s fairly true of most songwriters…I don’t get too stuck on that stuff.  I think the finale he’s got in this song is another stellar example of his ability to take that one step further and find even more success with his melodies by making sure he’s mined every nugget of gold they have to offer – but if you’re asking me what’s gonna make this song as memorable as it IS for the majority of people listening, then my answer is “oh oh oh” so simple.  Don’t get me wrong and don’t get it twisted – I ain’t taking a single point away for something like that – in my view, creating the melody that comes with it still counts significantly as songwriting every bit as much as any word ever could…Nash deserves all the credit for creating a hook that no one is gonna forget, no matter how simple that moment may truly be.  Like a great chef, the best ingredients we can use are often the simplest, and this is an example of that.

Fergal spends a lot of time on this record diving into themes of how crucial it is to ignore the noise of others and just be YOU for all the beautiful reasons that you should be.  Illustrated really well through the song “Hideaway” perhaps more than any others, you get an equal dose of messaging that promotes self-protection every bit as much as explains why it’s important to not let doubt take you over.  It’s more than fine to find your own private “Hideaway” where you’re free from all the judgment and bullshit, but as Nash explains throughout this record and this song in particular, it’s also important to recognize that nothing anyone says should affect us as much as we tend to let it.  I look at the reviews I write in the same way believe it or not.  I do my best to be respectful and explain my point of view, but at the end of the day, I’m just another part of the noise.  Take from it what you will…if there’s something I’ve said that makes sense or is helpful to the future going forward, fantastic – and if you don’t agree with something I’ve said, you can always feel free to tune me out.  “Hideaway” is one of the album’s better tracks if you ask me…I think that Nash has written this song out in a remarkably relatable way that’ll connect with many people out there listening that have had similar feelings, and hopefully inspire those same people to embrace their talents and not shy away from sharing them with the world, like the example he’s set.  Good mix of instrumentation in the music…solid production throughout this record overall…I’m gonna continue to point out how Canadian this Irishman sounds and keep advocating to adopt him, but I think that he’s got a song in “Hideaway” that’ll transcend borders with its genuinely meaningful messages.

Tracks like “Same Boat” are tunes that are tough to make a call on.  I think it’s fair to say that once again, Fergal finds his way into a decent chorus hook that should have enough appeal to bail him out…but I’m not convinced he’s got a verse that’s exactly gonna set the world on fire, you know what I mean?  He plays and performs it well…there’s no issues there.  A lot of these tunes will come down to the strength of the material in the court of public opinion…and whenever there is an imbalance that exposes any one part of a song as being that noticeably better than the other, I think you’re setting yourself up for some potentially rocky reception in the ears of the average everyday listener.  Fergal needs that Dave Grohl recipe of writing a verse, writing a chorus, scrapping the original verse and using the chorus as the verse instead, then creating another chorus that raises the stakes even more…I honestly think if this dude were to incorporate a method & approach like that, he’d be a true force to be reckoned with and we wouldn’t be having a conversation about this part or that part not quite reaching his full potential.  Because this dude has continually proven that he can make the magic happen in a chorus hook…I’m just not as sure he’s placing that same degree of importance in the verses he’s writing hooks-wise, that’s all.  I’m not saying it couldn’t still be engaging enough for people to listen to…I’m not saying that at all – what I’m saying is that in tracks like “Same Boat,” there’s a chasm of difference between the allure in the verses and chorus.  It’s something Nash is gonna want to be mindful of I suppose.  I ain’t denying there’s a catchiness to this whole song overall, but I am saying that the main magic resides in the chorus.  Seems like a trite and obvious point to make I’m sure, as most songs reveal their biggest hooks in the chorus of course…I’m simply poking Fergal to raise the stakes and not let his verses be too ‘normal’ is all.

He’s had a couple tunes along the way throughout this lineup that have reminded me a bit of Blue Rodeo too, which is yet another Canadian band.  Small world I tell ya…we’ve always got so much more in common than we realize.  “Sorry Eyes” is definitely one of the tunes that creates that comparison.  Not sure what you’d call the defining qualities that make it that way…a little melancholy, a little sleepy, still melodic…smart lyricism…all good things really, even if it’s not quite the sound you’d expect people to reach for right away in comparison to the spark they’d find in a track like “Snapshot” for instance.  Tracks like “Sorry Eyes” become one of the deeper cuts instead…not the kind of song you might notice at first, but the kind that grows on you and strengthens the lineup overall.  I’m with Fergal on this one right up to the finale…I’m not sure the song needed the repetition of its last line, but other than that, I dig this track and the humbleness of its sound.  I really like that moment of instrumentation around the 1:15 mark and feel like that’s actually the biggest hook you’ll find in this song…I’d have probably been a bit tempted to recall that a few times on “Sorry Eyes” if I were Nash.  “Least I’ve got the balls to stand up and express myself” is a real statement quote on this record – I feel like Nash feels like he’s been counted out or doubted too many times in life, and he’s largely been rebelling against that throughout this whole set-list of songs.  Rightly so!  I might personally think this or that could possibly be improved or offer insight on whatever I’m hearing from my own objective point of view, but at the end of the day, I still completely admire the fact that Nash is out there doing what he does the way he’d do it, full stop.

Just gotta “call it as it is,” as Fergal himself will tell ya on the final track of his new record.  I like the added punch you’ll find in the low-end of this last cut…and I very much appreciate the fact that Nash is still revealing different dynamics in his material right up to the very end.  I’m probably still in the same position as I have been in feeling like he’s got a noticeable distance between the appeal in his verses versus the choruses he creates on “As It Is” – but I do dig the diversity this last song brings to the album.  At the end of the day, he’s been honest with you throughout his lineup of tunes, and it’s only fair that we attempt to give that back to him with our own straightforward opinions on what we hear in return.  Don’t get me wrong, I think “As It Is” ends up being a completely solid finale and one of On A Constant Roll’s better tunes all said & done…but yeah…I think Fergal’s got the most opportunity to continue his growth & evolution as an artist by challenging himself to start making verses that rival what he displays in the main hooks he writes into a chorus…because he’s fully capable.  More capable than most really.  Each and every song on On A Constant Roll has one decisively major hook and gateway into it – all I’m suggesting is that he continues to dig even deeper in order to make sure we can’t stop listening at any given moment.  It’s good to get some pushback…it’s what helps us reach that next level – I’m more than willing to give Fergal Nash a passing grade without hesitation for his efforts on this album – but I also know that he’s got what it takes to really take his music to a whole other level in the future to follow.  Incredible guitar tones in “As It Is” to finish things off…I dig that it’s a bit more intense, aggressive, and gritty…it’s definitely a good note to go out on, and a song that’ll have you coming back for another spin through the full lineup of songs on On A Constant Roll.

Find out more about Fergal Nash from his official website at:  https://www.fergalnash.com

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