Ruth O’Brien – Songs For Abby

BMA EP Review by Vince Leigh

The new EP from Canberra singer-songwriter Ruth O’Brien is a labour of love in many a sense.

For starters, O’Brien has assembled some of the best and brightest minds to craft this EP. Comprising veteran sound engineer and producer David Pendragon and Jack Buchanan (sound engineer) to best capture the songs, O’Brien has also called upon familiar names in Victor Rufus (guitarist and arranger), Julia Howarth (cellist), and Matt Nightingale (double bassist).

This is all in the endeavour to best explore, via four songs, the tension and joy that arises when one’s co-habitants are, well, cats.

Yes, Songs For Abby is a record dedicated to, and about, Ruth’s cats, Abby and Monti. This new collection follows Ruth’s 2018 EP release, Invaluable, and displays another focused and cohesive application of the folk genre.

The new tracks might all refer to felines, but O’Brien’s vocals, the performances, the production, and, more particularly, the lyrics, transcend this departure point and single objective to become a more expansive musical experience with a universal application.

When combined with authentically affectionate moments and humorous touches, the four songs conjure a warmth and intimacy that will please a wide audience—not only cat lovers.

The EP’s opening song, She Is, utilises a gentle, shuffling pulse to augment O’Brien’s voice. The sparse backing, with the response vocals providing an effective counterpoint to the vocal melody.

The following track, Allergic To You, and its telling title, harnesses a lone cello to reinforce a sense of reflection, one that surfaces via the melancholic flavour of the note and chord choices. These serve as a perfect counterbalance to the wry dual-meaning of the content.

The next track is perhaps the most universally appealing of the EP.

With its joyful ambience and directness, I Just Wanna Love You contains a balanced amalgamation of the alluring aspects of O’Brien’s approach; a poignancy underscored by a comedic hue, with her heart-on the- sleeve expressions nuanced by lines that are a distinct measure of her sensibilities.

And closing track Love and Hate is perhaps the sleeper hit; a joyful, folksy ode that gifts us with some of most emotionally impressive vocal turns of the EP.

Lines like ‘every now and then you can get on my nerves’ create an engaging and entertaining notion that transcend co-cat kinship, and are indicative of the EP’s overall enjoyment and appeal.

You can listen Songs for Abby on Spotify or Apple Music.

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