We can be grateful that Rory Nellis has continued to write his melodic, intelligent, and carefully crafted tunes because clearly there are not enough songs in the world – there never will be – and with each song sent out to make its own way in the world, there is a proud parent waving them on.
Opening with an existential song, wondering why bother to keep on keeping on writing songs and making music when it’s such a tough task to break through when making a simple buck is nigh on impossible, why oh why would anyone with a titter of wit continue on this thankless path? Nellis asks himself why not just get a job? A proper job? The answer is simple. As an artist, there’s nothing else that can be done but to keep on writing, composing and creating. Put simply, the artist is born that way. Nothing else will ever make sense and is simply a pathway to disappointment and despondency. Therefore in those days of self-flagellation and asking why bother, the answer is clear – there simply is no other way – because it’s written and underlined. Predestined, you could say.
‘Written and Underlined’ is Rory’s third album following on from ‘There Are Enough Songs In The World’. It’s been a tough time for musicians striving to make a crust, more so in recent years, but I am reminded of the myth of two miners in the diamond mine chip-chip-chipping at the rocks. One gives up inches from the treasure, while the other keeps on chip-chip-chipping away and wins the rewards. ‘Written and Underlined’ is that treasure.
Rory deserves the rewards of his hard work and effort. He is a gifted songwriter and this third album brings that into sharp focus. Intuitive, insightful and wise, we have the sense of a thinker with a wry sense of humour, with a knack for uncovering the banal and making it beautiful.
For example, ‘Video Shop’ brings to mind our memories of mis-spent youth, days when we physically went to the video shop, rented the movie, watched it over and over, yelled out our favourite lines, and then brought it back late (with a fine). It seems like yesterday but Rory brings those memories right bang into the present. VHS may be obsolete but the memories live on.
Then there’s ‘Old Town Revelry’, opening with a turn of phrase from our Northern Ireland vernacular – have you ever lost the run of yourself? A reflection on youth and misdemeanours.
Ironically “losing the run of yourself” is a term often used and abused by our wayward politicians in this part of the world. Rory is not a political animal, but he can’t help himself casting a cold eye on all the shenanigans in the track titled ‘Political Animal’. He’s not a political animal but that doesn’t mean he’s not a stoical observer.
Neither will Rory be defined by a label as highlighted in the follow-up track, ‘Bumper Sticker’. Two timely tracks as the Northern Ireland elections heat up. His frustration with the state of the world, the inane and ineptitude of those who choose to wear the mantle of public representation (some might say, without fully understanding the nature of public service) is juxtaposed with self-reflective themes and personal insights.
With this third album, here’s hoping Rory’s time has come. He’s been about for a few years, perhaps bubbling under the radar. His talent deserves much more recognition.
Rory’s songwriting is described as “flowing melodies with honest, self-reflective lyrics as he aims to strike a balance between serious and playful: tense and relaxed. What comes out is an effortless flow of wonderful noises poignant sentiments and earworming hooks which you are guided through by Rory’s emotive voice- gentle and comforting in one verse and epic and roaring in another.”
Whoever came up with that description is totally spot on – the perfect overview.
It’s around four years since the release of ‘There Are Enough Songs In The World’. Clearly, Rory has put his heart and soul into ‘Written and Underlined’. Produced at a distance during lockdown with long time collaborator Phil d’Alton, it “spans the full, genre-splitting spectrum of Rory’s singular sound”.
‘Be The Sea’, ‘Sailboat’, and ‘Picture Postcard Sublime’ lilt and sway their way making what is complex feel divinely simple. ‘The Fear’ could be an anthem for anxiety – again, timely for these troubled, turbulent times.
From the outset, Rory Nellis has us hooked. He tells us everything’s going to be alright, and I believe him.
If there’s diamonds at the end of the tunnel, then Rory Nellis deserves all the credit where it’s due. This man doesn’t just writes songs for the sake of it, there’s poetry within, the capability to hook a soul and stir something deep within us is a gift bestowed on a mere few – and what a voice!
Rory will finally be able to launch the album during Cathedral Quarter Arts Festival on Sunday 1st May 2022. One not to miss.