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Eoin Harrington – Story – Grade A

Submitted by on August 31, 2009 – 9:04 AMNo Comment
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The early press about Eoin Harrington’s debut disc, Story, hawks this young talent as a consummate storyteller.  Though Harrington can write a great song and deliver it with skilled pop vocals, his work really doesn’t demonstrate storytelling exactly, at least no more than any other popular songwriter. I reserve the term storyteller for writers who present a narrative in song, usually about someone’s life or  events in local or national history. There are a number of true storytellers out there including Tom Paxton, Elizabeth Edwards, J. J. Grey (MOFRO), Todd Shaefer (Railroad Earth), Chris Obrien (Enchanted Earth), and even North Dakota singer/songwriters Ron Franz and Chuck Suchy. These writers present complete stories that unfold like novels about a person or an event, and it is the telling of those tales, those evocative stories, that produces a connection or emotional response. Listeners come away as if they have lived through another’s experience.

Eoin Harrington2Though Eoin Harrington, an Irish transplant into San Francisco, does writer songs that evoke a connection with his listeners, these are not necessarily stories, but moments in time, more emotional poetry than story. Some of his work, such as “They Won’t Catch Us Now,” feel more like soundtracks for a movie, underscoring a part of a bigger story that listeners just don’t know yet. They are great songs, emotional and very

Then, there are just a lot of good love songs.  “Beautiful Thing”is a strong song, full of emotion that Harrington is able to deliver expertly, and  “Never Be Lonely” is very tender.  But his “I’m Sorry” is probably the best come-back-home song I’ve ever heard! No wonder that song and “Never Be Lonely” earned Best Song in the West Coast Songwriting competition.

But Harrington looks at romance sometimes from different perspectives. His “Already Done” is a rock love anthem in reverse.  Here, a lover states all the things that he would do for his love—a beautiful litany of devotion that is sprinkled throughout the song in bits. But the lover isn’t so true. He states: “But the one that that I’d never do/You’ve already done.” Another surprising look at love is “So Wrong” that captures a moment when someone meets an old lover and realizes that their relationship had never been right.

But, then Harrington surprises listeners again in “No Way, No How.” It isn’t a story, but it is advice he’s giving to a friend about coming to his senses about a relationship. He sings: “It’s time to face it/She’s not going to change/No way, no how……It’s time to get your feet on the ground/ And turn your world around.” That has to be the first song I’ve ever heard encouraging an ordinary guy to break up. Often, if that’s done in song, the woman is really trashed—an a lot of old blues songs are based on that, on the bad things about the lover (male or female).

In the middle of all of these rock/pop songs about relationships, Harrington throws in a reggae song about a customer coming to a spurious club called Last Temptations. Harrington is joined on vocals by Megan Slankard, who sings the role of one of the club’s sex workers. It’s actually a cute song that puts the emphasis on the business of making money while trying to be seductive. Here, Harrington takes on the role of club owner or host. It’s not exactly a story, but it certainly paints a very vivid picture (but all in good taste).

The only real stories I found on this album, and probably the most enduring, are “Addicted” and “Is It Over.” The first is a sad portrait of a young lady on drugs done up with a rock beat. Here, Harrington wails vocally without slipping into ego. He delivers just enough. In “Is It Over,” presents the portraits of two very lonely people who wonder if they will ever find love, how they stumble upon each other, and the way that encounter plays out.

Story is musically backed by a variety of capable musicians. Harrington himself handles not only vocals and backing vocals, but also acoustic and electric guitars, piano, organ, percussion, and bass on “I’m Sorry.” That is the only track he plays on.

Harrington is a master at finding memorable choruses and catchy melodies, kells-01encapsulating evocative moments, and even writing hooks that grab listeners and pull them into his songs. And, the man can sing his heart out!

Beer Pairing: Kells Irish Style Lager from Oregon is a crisp, malty brew with an apple bite that will remind you of Harp Lager. It’s very smooth going down and is the best Irish made in the US.