Oisín ó Scolaí Presents “One for Sorrow Two for Joy”
Sometimes when we listen to music, it’s obvious how much work went into that song or album. It could be complex songwriting or intricate, layered production that makes listeners pause for a moment to appreciate the artist’s effort and musicianship. Other times the factors that affect our musical experiences are less tangible. There are times when even though someone’s music may be relatively simple, the listener can discern the work – and heart – that went into the creative process. The Irish singer-songwriter Oisín ó Scolaí writes songs that fall into the latter category. His EP One for Sorrow Two for Joy contains three songs that, while remaining clearly within the folk tradition, exhibit a depth of emotion from a musician who not only performs his songs, but clearly feels them deeply as well.
The three songs on One for Sorrow Two for Joy all sound fairly alike with similar chord changes and song structures. Scolaí even makes note of the likeness at one point in the opener “Every Day & Every Night” when he sings, “they all to start to sound the same around this time of night.” He may be simply referencing the mental fatigue that often comes from long-winded recording sessions, but regardless, the self-awareness offers an interesting take on the situation. The trait in Scolaí’s music that truly differentiates his songs is the lyrical content.
While the three songs may all sound the same musically (except for some mixing discrepancies), each contains lyrics with unpredictability and heartfelt imagery. The aforementioned “Every Day & Every Night” is a bright song full of optimism and self-assuredness as Scolaí sings about his cheerful determination to keep on writing music. He makes reference to his audience, singing phrases like, “I wrote this little number to say thanks for listening,” “you can have a listen if you like,” and “thanks for stopping by.” There is a sweetness to the song and its lyrics that is further emphasized by the bell melody.
While “Every Day & Every Night focused on Scolaí’s personal journey, the second song “Coffee from Kilimanjaro” is geared more toward helping out someone else. He offers words of encouragement in the quasi refrain with: “if you don’t feel better tomorrow, I’ll come bring you coffee from Kilimanjaro” and “if you just can’t shake the sorrow, let’s count on it being gone tomorrow.”
The final track “Pine Hill (Never Coming Down)” has perhaps the most cryptic imagery of the three. Scolaí begins the song with the words, “There’s watermarks on the rooftop / looks like Jesus playin’ good cop / ‘til they cleaned up heaven and the whole place closed up shop.” He later goes on to make not-so-veiled references to drug use with the repeated phrase “I’m never coming down” and the line, “I made my way up on Pine Hill / came right back down in my bicycle / was never gonna kick these pharmaceuticals.” While the specific references in the song are somewhat vague, they certainly capture and maintain the listener’s attention with Scolaí’s more weighted delivery.
So even though some listeners may write off One for Sorry Two for Joy for its simplicity and uneven production, the prudent listener will get a brief look into the world of an artist who experiences life in a unique way. His lyrics are original and clearly convey the copious time and effort that went into his process. Here’s hoping that he continues growing musically but also keeps us guessing along the way.