Monday, March 5, 2012

upon small shoulders

upon small shoulders by deanv41
upon small shoulders, a photo by deanv41 on Flickr.

In 1987, when Sinéad O'Connor's debut album was released, I lived in the college town of Missoula, Montana. Her arrival on the world stage coincide with my time in The Northern Rockies. A lot of us there had a special affection for this wounded Irish wolf as her songs, her voice, her ideas demanded not only our attention but also felt like choosing sides in a war, a new attack on an old fucking problem, with anthems that could break a glass ceiling.
From her early work on soundtracks with The Edge from U2 in the middle of the decade; to her debut album, The Lion & The Cobra, that turned all heads toward Dublin; to the assured masterpiece and monster-selling second, I Do Not Want What I Haven't Got, in 1990; even through her righteous attack on the Papacy in 1992 before a live television audience, Sinéad was a one woman revolution inspiring and ascendent. But like Joan of Arc, she got burnt for it.
Sinéad's global hit, "Nothing Compares to You," played at a my going-away party at AmVets in downtown Missoula, 1991, as i left for The West Coast.
Then I lost touch with her. There were reggae albums, breakdowns, disappearances, Irish fiddles & folk songs, but nothing reminded me much of her genius.
Until her ninth album, released at the end of February called How About I be Me (& You be You?). It's a thrilling return. The cover is a painting, shown here, by the Irish artist, Neil Condron. It's called "upon small shoulders" and speaks to the Republic's latest tribulations -- an innocent reaching out in troubled times-- a fallen nation, thrown from a wild Celtic tiger only to land back in familiar stables with hardships not always caused by their own.
Irish, at heart, are a hopeful people despite it all. They'll tell you so and write a book about it. Having such an iconic artist like Sinéad back and seemingly in her prime is good for the Celtic spirit. This tune called "The Wolf is Getting Married" is her manic, happy ode to joy and wedlock even as it sometimes acts on the wild thing inside, not quite free, still howling.

"Even when something terrible is happening you laugh
& that's the thing I love about you most of all."
-- Sinéad O'Connor, 2012.

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