We’ve long been fans of No Oil Paintings, since catching Chris Kelly, George Sloan and Sean and James Doone jamming in Bangor’s Rabbit Rooms in one of their first performances with vocalist Bronagh Broderick.
We raved about them then and we’ve been foot-tapping along to the songs in our heads patiently awaiting a debut record for what seems much longer than the solitary year these old souls on young shoulders have been on the scene. No Oil Paintings is the band. ‘No Oil Paintings’ is the EP. No Oil Paintings is a euphemism for the brutal and ugly by damn this four track recording is a real thing of beauty.
Travelling tunes and songs of escapism have long been themes in country and folk music. On the EP opener ‘Exodus’ virtues of running off down south are extolled. It’s up to you where your south is. Maybe you’re leaving Lincoln County for Santa Fe or maybe fleeing those hot summer nights in Belfast City for the lush green hills of Wicklow. Wherever you wander, this old time string band tune should be lingering in your ears.
‘Orphans’ Lullaby’ takes us down from the mountain and into yonder plains where we’re having our very own current day depression. We’re lacking a dustbowl or a steady stream of Okies and Arkies in our drab grey concrete wasteland but gosh darn, right here, we got ourselves a country song y’all. Waylon Jennings once questioned ‘Are You Sure Hank Done It This Way?’ Well, with it’s solemn swing, rousing cracked melody and that high and lonesome fiddle wail, this is just the way the good ole boys done ‘em.
Bronagh Broderick takes over on lead vocals for ‘Secrets’. There’s a sultry, smokey tone in the delivery but when the pace picks up, there are hints of Patsy Cline’s rockabilly days. The guitar bend echoes the steaming whistle of the ‘Orange Blossom Special’ and the middle-eight break down crashes in like a black-hatted man in a frontier saloon. When Broderick’s vocals kick in again, they hit like a barstool across the back. And we mean that in a good way.
Because, of course, pain is one of the linchpins of country music. In musical terms, it’s polar opposites are probably redemption or hope. Staples for years of the genre, they’re all given an up-to-date treatment by No Oil Paintings on this stunning debut. ‘Rise’ wraps things up with harmonies that conjure up images of gospel choirs and chain gangs. It’s an old time spiritual with a contemporary twist. There’s that old plaintive cry, the shredded electric guitar, slivers of Charlie Daniels inspired fiddling and a prayer for “peace in the valley one day”. Peace, that’d be great but until then we’ll take more of these glorious tunes and cling to the hope that better things are coming and No Oil Paintings will go on to document our modern times with their old world balladry.
No Oil Paintings launch their excellent debut EP on The Belfast Barge with a live show this Friday, 26th June. You bring the booze. They bring the tunes. (EDIT: Word down on the Barge is that this show is officially sold out.)