Bridie O’Brien – The Caribbean Sessions
The sun has come out for Bridie O’Brien.
After the darkness and troubled, obsessive themes of 2011’s Highway Heart, O’Brien’s new album, The Caribbean Sessions is as sun-dappled and lanquid as the island of Anguilla, where it was recorded.
The album was created by O’Brien and drummer, producer and enabler Syd Green – the same dynamic duo behind Highway Heart – and recorded in various rooms across the island, including a haunted plantation house and a hand-built church.
O’Brien arrived with an acoustic guitar and not much else. She borrowed a cheap electric guitar from a local boy called Romano and her and Green made percussion from rum bottles, cutlery and other home-made percussives. Like true future-primitives they used pebbles and they used iPhone apps.
They made music from whatever was at hand. Toilet-roll trumpets show up on the recording, as does the ubiquitous Caribbean steel pan drum which adds its bird-like bell song to all six tracks.
The gentle steel drum which opens the album is all but crushed by the heavy guitar of ‘Hey Little Buddy’ which rolls across the track like storm clouds over sea. It’s heavy but it is a love song, a song of friendship.
Second single, a cover of The Police hit ‘Walking on The Moon’ serves up some space-reggae which paints a picture of the sky and the sea – blue and turquoise mirrored expanses that O’Brien and Green saw, breathed and lived in every day of the recording.
O’Brien says she could have over-dubbed back in the first-world comfort of Australia but felt the need to preserve the purity of only Anguilla-made sounds. The importance of this purity is centred on the importance of The Caribbean Sessions in O’Brien’s life – it is not only a recording, it is a journal of healing for her, after a punishing and downhearted period that left her drained. She speaks of ‘an epiphany of gratitude’ for the spiritual rejuvenation she experienced. And you can hear it in the music.
The instrumental ‘Loch Ness’ flows like a warm current, warming the water of that Scottish lake with Caribbean sunshine and darting little bright fish.
‘Take Me to the Island’ is a beach you can lie on all day, fingers trailing in the spume – a lovely azure tone-poem to the sensuous languor of the beach-warm body. More than anything here, ‘Take Me to the Island’ conjures the healing feeling that Anguilla had on O’Brien’s mind and body.
‘Doggy Point Mix’ is a soul-jazz boogaloo, as heated and raunchy as the subject matter that inspired it – a local couple doing it doggy-style across a car bonnet. Blocking the path, they wouldn’t stop or move until they were done. It must be an Anguilla thing.
The final cut, ‘The Church’ – an instrument jam – is a sweet hymn to friendship, specifically the friendship between O’Brien and Syd Green, who make music together as only the best of friends can. A simple conversation between her steel-string guitar and his steel-pan drums, ‘The Church’ speeds up and slows down, asks questions and gives answers, and has the easy push-pull dynamic of the best of buddies.
The sun has come out for Bridie O’Brien. And if you want some of that smiling Anguillan warmth on your office-block tan check The Caribbean Sessions.
Bridie O’Brien launches The Caribbean Sessions at The Vanguard on June 17. Tickets are here.
Bridie O’Brien’s website is here.